WILSONVILLE — Behind a second half offensive surge and a dominant defensive performance, No. 8 Wilsonville defeated No. 9 North Bend 34-14 in the first round of the Class 5A state football playoffs on Friday night.
Putting 27 straight points on the board in the second half, the Wildcats punched their ticket to next week’s quarterfinals against No. 1 Thurston. For the Bulldogs, a week after rushing for more than 500 yards, North Bend was contained to 334 total yards — with 80 of those yards coming in the closing minutes of the game.
“They stacked the box, and we knew that we were going to have to throw and we just didn’t do a great job tonight of getting the ball out there,” said North Bend head coach Gary Prince. “As a coaching staff there were definitely some things that we need to take the blame for not preparing our kids for what they were going to see. (Wilsonville) just had a great, sound defensive game plan and we just didn’t execute well.”
It was a sign of things to come on North Bend’s first drive of the game when the Bulldogs rushed the ball twice up the middle for no gain followed by an incomplete pass.
Wilsonville answered quickly as quarterback Jayce Knapp found Payton Dart two plays later for a 33-yard score. Dart finished with nine catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns while Knapp’s day included 22-of-33 passing for 358 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
While both players filled out the stat sheet by the end of the game, this initial touchdown strike was Wilsonville’s only score of the first half. The Wildcats continued to get into North Bend territory but it was the Bulldogs coming up with two blocked field goals in the first half to slow the scoring.
“Defensively, we did a great job,” said Prince. “They did it for as long as they could. It was just too much to overcome eventually. (Wilsonville) has some skilled dudes out there that can run like the wind and put us in some bad positions.”
A 39-yard run from North Bend’s Divenson Willis, who was untouched on the play, put the Bulldogs on the board in the first quarter and the teams went to halftime tied at 7-7.
But in the second half, it was all Wildcats.
North Bend’s offense began showing signs of life on the first drive of the third quarter as the team marched down the field, but it was Wilsonville’s Mason Dean, as he was wont to do all game, coming up with an interception. This one for a 75-yard touchdown.
“We game planned well. We knew what they were going to do coming in and like on that one pick-six we were in a certain coverage and the coach switch checked last minute and just put me in the perfect position,” said Dean. “I was just thinking don’t get caught.”
Dean — who entered the game with three interceptions on the season — came up with four picks on the night tying a school single-game record.
As Wilsonville’s offense began to cook — including a Knapp touchdown pass to Josh McKenzie for 66 yards — it was the team’s defense continuing to hold back the Bulldogs. Quarterback Ian Spalding was 11-for-20 with 147 yards passing and the four interceptions. The dynamic rushing attack of Willis, Spalding and Jake Posey were held to 84, 77 and 31 yards respectively.
“Right now it’s just tough,” said Willis. “We’ve spent so much time working. We know we can compete better, there are just things didn’t work out as well as they should have. It is what it is now.”
In addition to what he called North Bend’s “three-headed monster” rushing attack, Wilsonville head coach Adam Guenther was also concerned about the Bulldogs’ offensive line.
“They’re huge. They are huge. We put a lot of pillows on our guys to make them bigger, we carried dumbbells to simulate the extra weight,” Guenther joked about preparing for that unit. “No, you can’t simulate four guys over 300 pounds. All you can do is do what we do and that’s play fast, get yourself in the right spots and repeat it over and over and over again. And that’s what we did.”
In the final two minutes of the game, Spalding orchestrated an 80-yard drive down the field that was capped off with his 1-yard touchdown run. During the drive Spalding found Bridger Holmes for a 41-yard gain. The leading receiver for North Bend, Holmes finished with three catches for 82 yards.
With the season coming to a close, North Bend’s Prince was especially proud of his group of seniors not only in their final game but in their high school football careers.
“It’s been a special four years hanging out with these guys. They were freshmen when we won state in 2016 so a lot of them got to experience that. Just a lot of hardworking kids,” he said. “I wish there were more seniors but these 12 that we have were amazing. Amazing young men. I’m just excited to see the things they do from here on out.”