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NORTH BEND — The holiday spirit has come early to North Bend.

With the Bulldogs back in the Class 5A football playoffs, No. 9 North Bend heads to No. 8 Wilsonville on Friday in the first round and the team is ready to play.

“I don’t know about everybody else but for me it’s like waking up on Christmas morning. Like a little kid, I’m excited,” said senior receiver and linebacker Garrison Mateski.

With last week’s 68-35 victory over Willamette, North Bend secured a spot in the postseason. While there were hopes for a home playoff game, instead the team will make the trip to Wilsonville. The Wildcats followed up last season’s run to the state championship game with an undefeated league season this year. Both North Bend and Wilsonville lost to Crater by 40 this season.

But regardless who is lining up opposite North Bend, head coach Gary Prince’s expectations of the team do not change.

“For us it’s a lot of the same. The biggest thing is we’re really trying to focus on us and make sure we do the little things right. Not trying to be too creative or fancy or overthink things, just focus on the basic fundamentals and play sound football,” he said on Wednesday at practice.

This sentiment was echoed across the field by senior linemen Cory Livingston.

“Everything stays the same. To be honest, it’s one of those weeks where it feels like it’s a good week. I feel like we’re going to do good,” said Livingston.

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Throughout the year the Wildcats have leaned on quarterback Jayce Knapp who has propelled the offense forward. According to Prince, Knapp has thrown for over 2,000 yards and over 20 touchdown passes. Wilsonville has the fifth highest scoring offense in 5A.

“They have the respect and we’re going to give that respect to them. But we’re going to play hard and hopefully take out on top,” said North Bend running back and linebacker Divenson Willis. “But we have to play our best game, their quarterback trying to go over our heads and we’ve got to get there.”

Offensively, the key for the Bulldogs belongs to the team’s rushing attack. The three-headed monster of Willis, Jake Posey and quarterback Ian Spalding was on complete display last week against Willamette as the team rushed for over 500 yards.

“We just want to make sure that we maintain possession of the football, we move the chains, drives are going to have to end in scores, however that happens. Just do the things that we do best, play to our strengths,” said Prince. “If they’re going to win, they’re going to have to stop the run. If they put a lot of guys in the box, we’re going to have to throw.”

In last week’s game against Willamette, a key part of the offense, Coleman Compton, suffered an injury that took him out of the game and led to a hospital visit. When asked about Compton’s health, Prince was optimistic.

“We should be getting all our kids back. We should be ready to go on Friday. We’ll be a little dinged up but I think by this time of year everybody is,” he said.

Admission for Friday's game, which kicks off at 7 p.m., is $8 for adults and $5 for students. 

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Reporter Zachary Silva can be reached at 541-266-6036 or by email at zachary.silva@theworldlink.com.

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