Last week’s loss to Silverton wasn’t a topic of conversation as West Albany High prepared to open the OSAA 5A football playoffs against La Salle Prep on Friday night.
The home defeat, which allowed Silverton to share the Mid-Willamette Conference title, was in the back of the Bulldogs’ minds. But West showed Friday there was no looking in the rear-view mirror, and the next opponent had its full attention.
The Bulldogs started fast and got significant contributions from all three phases of the game in a 45-7 win at Memorial Stadium.
The victory gives West (9-1) its rematch with Silverton (9-1) next week in a quarterfinal on the road. The Foxes defeated visiting Parkrose 50-26 on Friday.
“Last week kind of set the mood for us this week, because we weren’t very happy,” said Bulldogs senior linebacker Tanner Curr, who hauled in a second-half interception, one of his team’s three picks of Falcons quarterback Ethan Edgerly.
Jared Johannesen and Cassius McGinty had the others.
Seeing Silverton as a potential quarterfinal matchup provided the Bulldogs plenty of motivation. Mistakes on offense and defense cost them in the 17-14 loss. La Salle (6-4), of Milwaukie, was the team standing in the way.
“We knew we had to win one game to get to them,” Bulldogs coach Brian Mehl said of Silverton. “Did it refocus us? Probably. I’ve always believed that when you it lose it provides the biggest opportunity to grow. Those little details when you play tough teams, it always matters.”
West jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead Friday, and the defense gave the Falcons little breathing room all night.
With a Seth Jackson field goal already on the board to put the home team ahead, a 34-yard punt return by Blake Bowers set up the Bulldogs at the La Salle 23.
West’s Myles Westberg scored two plays later, catching his first of two touchdowns from Carson Van Dyke, this one from 19 yards out.
The Falcons made it interesting late in the first quarter on James Menor’s 52-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 10-7.
Both defenses owned most of the second period before the West offense found some traction with the help of some penalties.
Aided by two La Salle personal fouls, the Bulldogs went 83 yards in four plays. Porter Phillips had a 12-yard run on the opening drive, Connor Wolfe caught a 12-yard pass and Hunter Crosswhite finished with a 30-yard touchdown run down the left side after breaking several tackles.
The teams traded turnovers — Van Dyke throwing an interception and West’s Drew Toland falling on a fumble caused by teammate Kyle Hutson’s sack of Edgerly — before Westberg caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the front corner of the end zone with 31 seconds left in the half to put the Bulldogs in full control.
A 10-yard La Salle punt early in the third quarter set up West with a short field. Phillips scored again on a 5-yard run
Phillips, a junior running back and defensive back listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, has proven to be a hard runner to bring down when he gets the ball in his hands.
“I just get my shoulders forward and run straight,” said Phillips, who had 51 yards on nine carries. Crosswhite had a team-high 72 yards on 13 attempts.
McGinty’s short return on an interception early in the fourth got the ball to the Falcon 2. Caden Zamora found the end zone on a 5-yard run three plays later.
Curr got his pick on the next La Salle drive, returning the ball about 40 yards to the La Salle 6. Reserve quarterback Luke Killinger ran 6 yards on the next play to cap off the scoring with 6:45 remaining.
“The second half, it was really a testament to our defense and they created turnovers and gave us ball that we go score easy on,” Mehl said. “The defense was outstanding again.”
The West Albany passing game was held in check against Silverton but managed to help move the first-down sticks and put points on the board.
Westberg had seven catches for 76 yards and the two scores. Van Dyke was 10-of-18 passing with three touchdowns and two first-half interceptions.
Menor was La Salle’s leading rusher, with 86 yards on seven carries. Edgerly was 11-of-21 passing for 68 yards and the three picks.
The Bulldogs won their first playoff game in the return to the 5A classification after four years in 6A. The last time West was in 5A, in the 2013-14 school year, the Bulldogs defeated Silverton in a semifinal on its way to upsetting top-seeded Sherwood in the state championship game.