EUGENE — The season was on the line on Friday night for the North Bend football team. With the winner between the Bulldogs and Willamette going to the playoffs — thanks to a Crater victory over Churchill — North Bend wanted to claim the final Class 5A District 2 playoff spot.
"The mindset coming into this game was, hey, you know when you put a dog in the corner, that dog is going to bite,” said North Bend running back Divenson Willis. “And that’s how we were all week and that’s how it translated in this game.”
That bite translated into 10 touchdowns and over 600 yards of offense for the Bulldogs as North Bend ran past Willamette 68-35 in the must-win game.
“It feels great. We know we’ve got it,” said Willis of the team’s potent offense. “If we don’t make mistakes, we’ve got it. It’s just delivering. That’s what we need to work on the most. Deliver the message to the other team that we’re not going to stop until you stop. It’s just hey, this is how we’re going to do it.”
Willis was the workhorse at running back for the Bulldogs as he averaged just over 10 yards a carry on his way to 244 yards on 23 attempts. While he didn’t score a touchdown in the game, he was constantly putting the rest of his team in a position to score.
That offensive firepower was constantly coming from the backfield as North Bend finished with 515 yards rushing. North Bend’s other primary running back, Jake Posey, had seven carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Ian Spalding ran for 157 yards on 17 carries and four touchdowns.
“That gives us all different angles. Teams have to respect that,” said Spalding on North Bend’s run game. “They have to respect Divenson’s power, Posey’s speed and they do great opening it up for me. Defenses get focused on them and then I’ll just keep it.”
Spalding also was efficient through the air finishing 7-for-12 for 91 yards and three touchdowns.
In the first half that saw nine combined touchdowns, North Bend struck first. After the defense held the Wolverines on fourth down, the Bulldogs drove downfield and were then successful on fourth down as Spalding found Garrison Mateski for a 21-yard touchdown reception. It was one of Garrison Mateski’s two touchdowns on the night while Maddux Mateski hauled in the other touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
After Spalding ran in a score, Willamette answered back with a 67-yard touchdown run from Bryce Indell. Indell finished with 101 yards rushing. After another Spalding touchdown run for the Bulldogs, North Bend was primed to score again when Willis fumbled on the Willamette 1-yard line.
The Wolverines marched down field and quarterback Dane Woodcook hit 6-foot-4 receiver Elisha Thompson for a 29-yard touchdown reception to make the score 19-14. Thompson had six receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
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While the scoreboard was close, with North Bend’s offense scoring at will, the Bulldogs weren’t worried.
“Our offense really dictated control of the game. It all started up front with the fantastic guys up on the line,” said North Bend head coach Gary Prince. “It allowed us to play with a little confidence and be able to give up some plays defensively knowing that these guys were going to be able to come back on the field and dominate.”
The confidence was warranted as North Bend scored three straight touchdowns — including a 60-yard punt return for a score from Coleman Compton — to go up 41-14. Compton later left the game in the third quarter with an injury after taking a hit to the chest — which the Bulldogs argued was illegal. Compton was taken to Riverbend Hospital in Springfield.
Before the end of the half Willamette found the end zone once more with a 60-yard passing touchdown to Colton Johnson.
The teams traded touchdowns in the opening four minutes of the second half and it looked as if the Bulldogs were going to add to their lead but Posey fumbled on the goal line to give Willamette the ball. With the help of 75 yards of penalties from North Bend, Willamette’s quarterback Lane Nelson, in for the injured Woodcock, found Thompson for a touchdown pass.
“It almost felt like we were playing two different opponents, you know. I don’t know how it couldn’t feel that way — I don’t care who you are,” said Prince.
North Bend finished with 16 penalties for 160 yards; Willamette had four penalties for 35 yards.
The Wolverines were shut out from the end zone for the rest of the game as the Bulldogs continued to pound the ball against the Willamette defense.
“Our backfield is really diverse so I think as soon as we get the run game going, they adjust to the run game and then we pass the ball. It’s nice to get both things working and then the offense just clicks,” said Posey.
Now with the playoffs in sight and an opponent (as of this printing) unknown, the Bulldogs are looking to clean up penalties, hold on to the football and hope to have a home game next week.
“I just want the kids to keep playing hard. Keep having fun playing the game of football,” said Prince. “We’re going to work hard no matter who we play next week and just enjoy the time that we do have together.”