SILVERTON — The West Albany defense gave its offense one opportunity after another in Friday’s second half on its way to shutting out Silverton after halftime for the second time in three weeks.
The offense was waiting for one breakthrough moment and finally got it. The defense, as it has all season, did the rest.
Myles Westberg’s 18-yard touchdown reception from Carson Van Dyke with 2:28 remaining put the Bulldogs ahead, and Cassius McGinty broke up passes on the host Foxes’ final two plays.
West came through with a 20-16 win in an OSAA 5A football quarterfinal at McGinnis Field. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs (10-1) move on to play top-seeded Wilsonville in a semifinal next week. Wilsonville defeated Crater 78-45 on Friday.
McGinty, a senior linebacker and safety, had seen teammates put themselves in the defensive spotlight throughout the game. He says it was just his turn.
“We knew we had to make a big play as a defense and somebody had to step up,” he said. “We all were making big plays, but at the end, at that time, I made a big play.”
One possession earlier it was a third-down defensive sack, made possible by pressure from multiple Bulldogs. Before that, Ezra Lopez intercepted a Levi Nielsen pass with fourth-seeded Silverton (9-2) on a sustained drive into West territory.
“For our defense to come back on it after a long drive like that. That’s grit. That’s resolve,” said Bulldogs coach Brian Mehl, whose team fell 17-14 at home to Silverton two weeks earlier in the regular-season finale that allowed the Foxes to share the Mid-Willamette Conference title with West. “That’s staying the course. That’s the stuff that our defense has been giving us all year long.”
The sack pushed the Foxes 10 yards back to the West 34 and out of field goal range and extinguished thoughts of going for it on fourth down. The Bulldogs took over at their own 33 after a punt and 3:51 on the clock.
On third down, Caden Zamora hauled in an 8-yard Van Dyke pass for a first down by a yard before Hunter Crosswhite took a handoff, busted through the middle and found ground down the left sideline for a 38-yard gain to the Silverton 18.
On the next play, Van Dyke put air under a fade pass for Westberg on a play the two had practiced too many times to count. Westberg faked to the inner half of the field, went outside and outjumped two defenders to come down with what he later described as “a perfect ball” and put the Bulldogs ahead.
Frequently struggling with cramps, Westberg hobbled to the sideline after the score.
“We work on it a lot in practice. He’s a great quarterback. I’m so proud of him,” Westberg said of Van Dyke. “The work he puts in … throwing passes at 7 o’clock in the morning on Friday when we don’t have school. We’re always grinding.”
Van Dyke added: “I liked what we had. Single matchup, safety was over. We’ve done that a lot. A lot in practice, a lot in games. It’s second nature now.”
On a two-point conversion after the touchdown, Van Dyke found Connor Wolfe, whose effort to get into the end zone was stopped just short.
Silverton then took over at its own 24 after a short kick return.
Running back Nathan Kuenzi was held to a 3-yard gain before a second-down pass fell short and incomplete.
The next two passes went in the direction of Grant Buchheit, Silverton’s number-one receiver. McGinty came through to knock away both balls.
“Cassius got sticky on him and used his body and his athleticism to D him up,” Mehl said. “Cassius is a big-time player and he made a couple plays there at the end that were incredible.”
There was still 1:42 on the clock, and the Bulldogs had to find a way to get those final 102 seconds off the clock.
That’s where Crosswhite came through with a 17-yard run, again finding open ground to the left, to seal the victory.
“I just know I’ve got to get positive yards and make something happen for my team,” Crosswhite said. “I can’t do it without the linemen. It’s really all the linemen.”
Crosswhite finished with 96 yards on 13 carries. Teammate Porter Phillips had 54 yards on eight tries.
Van Dyke was 9-of-16 passing for 162 yards. Zamora had three catches for 67 yards and Westberg three for 28.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first three minutes of the game.
West went down the field quickly, covering 71 yards in six plays and scoring on Phillips’ 9-yard touchdown run. Silverton then scored on its first play from scrimmage, a 75-yard pass from Nielsen to Riley Kramer.
They exchanged second-quarter scores as well, a Van Dyke 41-yard pass to Blake Bowers and a Nielsen 34-yard pass to Buchheit.
A West Albany punt snap out of the end zone resulted in a safety and gave Silverton a 16-14 lead.
In the final two minutes of the half, West’s Jared Johannesen intercepted Nielsen on a play originating from the Bulldog 11.