Brian Mehl arrived at Monday’s practice a few minutes later than usual and watched his team warm up.
As he looked on, West Albany’s football coach felt like everything was a little different, just the way it looked and the energy coming from the players.
It was the start of a solid week of preparation that ended in the second-ranked Bulldogs putting together another dominating performance in a 56-7 win against No. 7 Dallas in a Mid-Willamette Conference game on senior night at Memorial Stadium.
“I think our kids know leading into this week every team you’re going to play is a playoff team.” Mehl said. “I think they’re eager to challenge themselves and take advantage of that opportunity.”
Next up is a regular-season finale at third-ranked Silverton to decide the league title.
Porter Phillips rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns, most of that in the first half. In the second he returned an interception 79 yards for another score.
West (8-0, 8-0) had a big night in the passing game, with Connor Wolfe hauling in five Carson Van Dyke passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Caeden Zamora had Van Dyke’s five other completions.
And the Bulldogs’ defense had another shutdown effort. Dallas (5-3, 5-3) had 90 yards rushing, 50 of that from Logan Person on 10 carries, and 139 passing with interceptions by Blake Bowers, Phillips and Devon McIntire. Phillips also had a fumble recovery.
“We had a pretty good plan from (defensive coordinator Cole) Pouliot, he helped us recognize the formations and what they’re going to do, their tendencies,” said West senior lineman James Burwell. “The JV kids helped out a lot with their offense. Helped us improve and see what they’re going to do.”
The Bulldogs put their stamp on the game with Dallas taking the opening possession.
Phillips, who plays both defensive back and linebacker, got a tackle for loss on Colby Johnson on a second-down running play. After a 9-yard pass to make it 4th and 2, Burwell stopped Johnson for no gain as West took the ball on downs.
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Two plays later, Phillips was in the end zone after running straight up the middle for 35 yards. The Bulldogs couldn’t take advantage of Phillips’ recovery of Johnson’s fumble on the ensuing drive, but the defense forced a three-and-out before Phillips ran it in from 41 yards on the Bulldogs’ next snap to make it 14-0.
Wolfe scored on a 72-yard catch early in the second quarter, breaking a tackle soon after the sideline reception then racing for the touchdown.
Dallas covered minimal ground on its next drive before West was backed up to its own 4 after a punt and two straight delay of game penalties. Wolfe then took a short pass to the boundary, spun away from a would-be tackler and went 96 yards for the touchdown.
Bowers’ interception of Dragons quarterback Landon Gardner to follow set up a Phillips 37-yard touchdown run around the right side to make it 35-0 at halftime.
“Every game is important from here on out and we’ve just got to stick to our game plan and play our game,” Phillips said.
Dallas got the help of a West fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half and turned it into a Gardner 8-yard touchdown run.
But the Bulldogs came back with a 12-play, 70-yard drive covering seven-plus minutes that Zamora finished with a 19-yard touchdown grab. After the reception, Zamora let a potential tackler fly by near the sideline then ran untouched for the score.
On Dallas’s next drive, Phillips rushed Gardner and tipped a pass to himself before finding open field on his way to another touchdown.
West’s Brennon Leach tacked on the game’s final score, an 8-yard touchdown with 4:39 remaining, and a running clock was used the rest of the way due to the 45-point rule.
Van Dyke was 10-of-12 passing for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Leach added 22 yards rushing, Zack Cehrs 19 and Van Dyke 6.
“They knew that we had a quality opponent coming in here and they were going to put their best foot forward in preparation,” Mehl said, noting the leadership of his seniors and juniors and the aid in preparing by the younger players on the scout teams.
Added Phillips: “Our JV guys, they stepped up big to us this week Our juniors and sophomores, they really stepped up on scout O and scout D. It really makes us better and makes us perform better on Fridays.”