It will be a long time before anyone forgets the West Albany High football team’s final game in the Greater Valley Conference, if ever.
The 5A-bound Bulldogs lost, then won, then finally lost a 50-43 Greater Valley Conference classic to McMinnville after a wild finish at Memorial Stadium that saw the teams combine for three touchdowns in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
West Albany (4-5, 3-5) could have clinched a berth in the upcoming 6A playoffs with a win. Now, the Bulldogs must hope for one of eight at-large berths to prolong its swan-song 6A season.
The final 97 seconds were among the wildest in West Albany’s 50-plus year history at Memorial Stadium. After trailing by 22 points (29-7) in the first half, McMinnville (6-3, 5-3) battled back to go ahead 42-36 on a 21-yard run Odin Thorson with 1:37 to play.
However, quarterback Nick Fleetwood marched the Bulldogs 80 yards in 11 plays and tied the game 42-42 with a 9-yard scoring pass to Chase LaPerle on fourth down with 29 seconds left.
Seth Jackson’s extra point sent the Bulldogs ahead 43-42, and fourth place in the GVC and the playoffs were within West's grasp.
There was still one act remaining, however. McMinnville senior wide receiver Colton Smith took the ensuing kickoff at the 25-yard line and sprinted 75-yard untouched to the end zone with 17 seconds remaining for his fifth touchdown of the night.
A two-point conversion made it 50-43. After an incompletion, Fleetwood and LaPerle teamed up on a 41-yard play, but he was tackled at the McMinnville 25 as time expired.
West Albany rocketed to the 29-7 lead by scoring twice in the first two minutes to take a 15-0 advantage.
A last-minute goal-line stand preserved West Albany’s 29-14 halftime advantage. McMinnville had a first-and-goal at the 1, but running back Noah Spencer was stuffed for a 1-yard loss and quarterback Samuel DuPuis was sacked back at the 19 as the clock expired.
A Nate Bassett interception halted a McMinnville drive at the West 12 on the final play of the third quarter, preserving a 36-27 lead. However, it was the defense’s last stop, as McMinnville scored on its three fourth-quarter possessions and outscored West 23-7 in the fourth quarter.