West Albany High hasn’t faced much adversity on the football field this season. But the Bulldogs saw just enough Friday night at Corvallis to warrant a response.
The host Spartans had the Bulldogs’ dominant defense on its heels to open the second half, going 72 yards in 10 plays to close within 21-7 on Ireland McFadden’s 16-yard touchdown run on a sweep.
That caught West’s attention, and the momentum turned quickly.
The second-ranked Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in the next nine-plus minutes, including their second defensive score, to pull away for a 49-7 Mid-Willamette Conference win at Bob Holt Stadium.
“We’ve never really had that happen to us, but we responded well,” said West’s Porter Phillips. “Our offense came out and took it down the field.”
Phillips took a screen pass and bounced off several tackles on his way to a 23-yard gain. Phillips and Zack Cehrs gained some difficult yards on the ground that kept the possession going.
Penalties slowed the Bulldogs offense in the first half and again on its first second-half possession as West (7-0, 7-0) faced a third-and-18 after two incomplete passes and a holding call.
But Carson Van Dyke threw a perfect ball to Connor Wolfe down the right side, just out of the reach of a leaping Brady Hankins for a 38-yard touchdown.
Bulldogs coach Brian Mehl called it a “huge play,” and it was.
“Then we got back in our rhythm and tempo and finished out the game doing what we needed to do,” he said.
Three plays later, West recovered a fumble after a reception by Corvallis (2-5, 2-5) at the Spartans 36 and took advantage.
The Bulldogs ran the ball five straight times, and Phillips finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to make it 35-7.
On the ensuring drive, West’s Seth Jackson picked off a Carter Steeves pass and returned it 47 yards for a score. The Bulldogs ended the game with a 68-yard drive on seven straight running plays and Van Dyke scoring on a 1-yard run.
Jackson, West's kicker, was perfect on seven point-after tries.
Mehl said it was good to have those hurdles as the schedule only gets tougher from here. West hosts No. 9 Dallas next week then closes out the regular season at No. 3 Silverton before heading to the 5A state playoffs.
“We need it. We need a team to play with us,” Mehl said, crediting the Spartans and their coaching staff for a game plan that kept the Bulldogs from many explosion plays. “We need to check our own oil on a lot of those things in all three phases. We need to embrace that and I think our kids did.”
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In the opening drive of the second half, Corvallis leaned heavy on Izaak Worsch, the team’s senior running back and workhorse.
The Spartans started both halves with Worsch taking direct snaps in a wildcat formation.
He carried the ball seven times on that first possession and completed a 9-yard pass to Hankins.
“I was proud of the way they came out,” Corvallis coach Chris McGowan said of his team. “Everybody knows about (West’s) defense and they come out and respond with a good drive. There wasn’t any big plays. The stuff we put together was good.”
With the Mid-Willamette getting five teams in the OSAA’s 16-team bracket, the Spartans are still in the playoff hunt. They have games against Central and South Albany remaining.
McGowan said overall that his team just had too many mistakes and turnovers Friday to have a chance against a high-level team.
Worsch rushed for 80 yards on 22 attempts, completed two passes for 21 yards and had a 14-yard reception.
“We’ve really settled into what we do now,” McGowan said. “But he can do it all. He’s kind of like our Tim Tebow type. He did an outstanding job.”
West took control early in the game, going 80 yards on the first drive with Phillips scoring on a 3-yard run. Phillips had a 28-yard run on the opening play, and Caeden Zamora had two catches.
The Bulldogs forced a quick punt then scored in three plays. Phillips ran for 4 yards, Zamora caught a 37-yard pass to the Corvallis 3 and Cehrs got in the end zone from there after a handoff.
Ethan Hester’s interception of Van Dyke had the Spartans in business late in the second quarter. But West’s Chance Hendrickson picked a pass of his own on the next play, returning it 66 yards for a touchdown.
Corvallis moved the ball but turned it over on downs at the West 25 with 16 seconds left in the half.
The Bulldogs have now given up 29 points this season, with 27 against the defense.
“We pride ourselves in defense,” said Phillips, a linebacker and defensive back. “Our coaches put a great game plan together. Our defense plays together well, just swarms. It’s awesome to be a part of it.”
Phillips had 93 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Brennon Leach added 57 yards on six attempts, all on the final drive. Wolfe was West’s leading receiver with four catches for 71 yards.