BANDON — Bandon got off to a great start in its Sunset Conference football opener against Coquille on Friday, recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff and scoring a quick touchdown.
After that, though, the Red Devils used their punishing rushing attack to take over, ultimately spoiling Bandon’s homecoming with a 48-19 victory.
“It’s a big way to start off another run of league,” said Ean Smith, part of Coquille’s three-headed run offense. “This is what we needed.”
Coquille was coming off a humbling loss to Amity in its preseason finale, but ended up beating the Tigers by rolling up 372 yards on the ground and limiting Bandon to just 62, essentially winning the battle in the trenches.
“Last week, we got out-physicalled,” Coquille coach David Thomason said. “We were determined not to let that happen tonight. That’s something we worked on all week.”
Things didn’t start great for the Red Devils, who took the opening kickoff, only to see Bandon’s Braydon Freitag strip the ball and recover the fumble.
The Tigers converted a long third down and got a 14-yard touchdown run by Wyatt Dyer for an early 6-0 lead.
Rather than get down, the Red Devils got motivated.
“It kicked us into gear,” Smith said. “I thought it pushed us to get our big-boy pants on and get going.”
The response came quickly. Smith broke free outside on a 59-yard run on Coquille’s second play and found the end zone from 5 yards out a few moments later to tie the score.
Bandon’s next drive ended when Freitag was sacked by Grady Arriola on fourth down and the Red Devils were in business again, with Caiden Yates scoring the first of three touchdowns — Smith also finished with three scores.
Freitag had one of his few passing mistakes on Bandon’s next possession and Gunner Yates intercepted and returned the ball inside the Bandon 5, scoring himself on the next play. And after forcing a punt, the Red Devils went downfield quickly again, with Caiden Yates scoring his second touchdown.
The score went from 6-0 Bandon to 28-6 Coquille in less than 14 minutes of game time.
Bandon didn’t fold, and on the final play of the half, Freitag passed to Cooper Lang in the end zone. The sophomore initially couldn’t control the ball, but kept it alive with his feet before it could hit the ground and pulled it into his chest while lying on his back for a touchdown.
“Cooper did great,” Freitag said. “He had his hands this game.”
Lang led the Tigers with six catches for 86 yards, and Freitag was generally effective when he had time, completing 11 of 16 throws for 160 yards.
But he was on the run a bunch against Coquille’s defensive front.
“I think we did great in the way we all worked together,” said Arriola, who had a couple of Coquille’s sacks. “We understand each other real well.”
Coquille had 12 tackles for loss in the first half alone, including sacking Freitag five times.
And after halftime, the Red Devils never let the Tigers get momentum, forcing a punt on the opening possession and scoring on a drive that included four runs of at least 13 yards, the last a 13-yard dash by Smith.
After recovering an onside kick, the Red Devils needed just two plays — a 34-yard run by Smith and a 10-yard touchdown run by Caiden Yates.
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Coquille forced a quick punt and got its last touchdown on a run by Smith.
Freitag said the Tigers played well in the first half, but didn’t keep up the intensity after halftime.
“We didn’t execute,” he said.
Freitag scored a late touchdown on a quarterback keeper, but by then the only thing still to be determined was the final score.
Smith finished with 152 yards on 13 carries and Caiden Yates added 148 on 19 attempts. Gunner Yates had 71 more yards on just five carries, plus one of Coquille’s two receptions from quarterback Jace Haagen for 18 more yards — the other went to Brayden Clayburn for 24 on Coquille’s second scoring drive.
Smith said the credit didn’t belong with the explosive backs.
“The guys up front dictate everything for us,” he said of the offensive line. “It all starts and ends with them.”
And the totals were impressive, Smith said, given Bandon’s defense.
“Bandon is no slouch,” he said.
Last year, the teams also opened league against each other and Coquille scored late to edge the Tigers in a low-scoring affair plagued by turnovers by both teams.
“We did not want a replay of last year,” Smith said.
“We’ve been ready for this for a while,” he said.
Coquille now hopes to use the boost through the rest of its season, starting with its homecoming game against Reedsport next week.
“I’m excited for what’s ahead,” Arriola said.
Bandon, meanwhile, will try to bounce back in during its league bye week next week, which will be a trip to Illinois Valley for a Thursday night contest.
“We need to get better,” Freitag said. “We’ve got to practice and come prepared and play a whole football game.”
Bandon coach Aaron Freitag agreed.
“I don’t have any excuses (tonight),” he said. “We’ve just got to get better.”
And while he liked the way Bandon’s passing offense worked, he said the run game needs to be better. Dyer finished with 66 yards, but had 50 after four carries and just 16 over his last 10.
“You’ve got to have both (passing and running),” he said. “Especially against a team that pounds the rock.”