After racing to a 14-0 lead over Century in the first quarter Friday night at Hillsboro Stadium, Newberg appeared to be on the brink of its first comfortable win since a lop-sided win over North Salem in week one.
Head coach T.J. Tomlins quickly fraying nerves, however, would not get off that easily, as the Tigers offense stalled and the Jaguars rallied in the second half to continue a near season-long trend of nail-biting finishes.
Senior defensive back James Conrads interception in the final three minutes turned Century away on its final drive and senior running back converted on third and long to run out the clock on a 21-18 victory.
Im getting old fast, Tomlin said. They like to keep it close, but theyre exciting ones at least.
Newberg staked its early lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Grayson Oviatt to Tyler DeLashmutt and a 66-yard Andrew McCarthy scoring run, but failed to convert two drives into Century territory into points.
That left the door open for the Jaguars to cut the lead to 14-6 just before halftime on a four-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
We didnt capitalize on things to really put them away, Tomlin said. We had some opportunities late in the second quarter to put them away and didnt do it.
The Tigers got the big play they were looking for on the opening play of the second half, but it didnt come on offense, but rather special teams, as Tautfest returned the kickoff 88 yards for a score to make it 21-6.
The Jaguars began to find success on the ground running sweeps and counters in the second half and also gashed the Tigers for several big plays on throwback screens. The home team tied the score with 3:39 to play on a 61-yard quarterback sweep, but missed its second extra point attempt of the night to make it 21-12.
With the offense struggling to move the ball, Century seized the momentum outright after scoring with 5:59 left in the game, but once again missed the extra point, so trailed by three despite scoring an equal amount of touchdowns as Newberg.
After forcing a punt and benefitting from a personal-foul penalty, the Jaguars began their next drive at the Tigers 34-yard line with just over four minutes to play.
Facing fourth down and four, Conrad picked off Marcos Hernandez to snuff out the threat, but Newberg quickly found itself facing third and 11 from its own 15 yard-line with 1:41 remaining.
Taking advantage of Centurys second-half tendency to load up on the strong side of the Newberg formation, Tomlin called a counter play, which was blocked to perfection, springing Tautfest for a 47-yard gain that iced the game.
Andys always been like that, senior defensive back Jack Kerwin said. Even in eighth grade he was always the clutch guy. You could rely on him to make big plays at the end, so we really appreciate having him. Hes our big-play maker.
Newberg rushed for most of its 275 yards in the first half, with Taufest totaling 77, McCarthy, 95, Oviatt, 49 and fullback Garrison Hardin, 50.
With the win, Newberg moved into a three-way tie for third place in the Pacific Conference and will likely earn an automatic playoff bid if it can win two of its three remaining games versus Forest Grove, No. 3 Tigard and lowly Hillsboro.