NORTH BEND — After last week’s second-half letdown in a loss to Ridgeview, North Bend needed a win Friday to keep its playoff hopes alive.
The Bulldogs accomplished that in style, pounding Willamette 58-7 behind a huge night from running back Divenson Willis and an opportunistic defense.
North Bend's Coleman Compton tackles Willamette's Tanner Adams along the sideline Friday at North Bend High School.
The Bulldogs wrapped up third place in the Class 5A District 2 North Division and set up a winner-take-all game at home against South Eugene, the third-place team from the South Division, next Friday for the league’s final playoff spot.
“We’re ready to get back at it Monday and get ready for South Eugene,” North Bend coach Gary Prince said after the win, which also came on North Bend’s homecoming and hall of fame night.
The Bulldogs will look to duplicate this week, which started with a good week in practice after the loss to Ridgeview.
“We knew we had to get after it,” said Lucas Moe, who had two of North Bend’s six interceptions and also scored his first touchdown.
The Bulldogs had a great all-around game.
“I think we played great as a unit,” North Bend’s Jacob Hannah said. “We were all flying around doing our jobs.”
North Bend's Mark Gilmore tackles Willamette's Seth Frazier as he runs up the middle Friday at North Bend High School.
The first spark came on defense. On the fourth play of the game, Jake Posey picked off a pass that had deflected off the hands of the intended Willamette receiver and raced 50 yards for a touchdown.
Posey suffered an ankle injury later in the first quarter, and that opened the door for Willis to have an even bigger night than normal. He is the Bulldogs featured back, but usually Posey takes some of the load.
Willamette got its lone score on a blown coverage midway through the first quarter, when Jondre Smith got behind North Bend’s defense for a 69-yard catch-and-run touchdown and a 7-6 lead (the Bulldogs missed their first extra point kick).
The rest of the highlights almost all went North Bend’s way.
It took less than 2 minutes for the Bulldogs to go back in front for good on the first of four touchdown runs by Willis. By the end of the night, he had five carries of 20 yards or more, seven more between 10 and 18 yards. His scoring runs covered 20, 44, 30 and 17 yards and he finished the night with 323 yards on 22 carries.
“He is getting better every week,” Prince said of Willis. “He has a great offensive line. They are working their butts off.
“He’s a lot better running back this year.”
Coleman Compton, North Bend’s speedy quarterback, also had a touchdown run and several nice gains on quarterback draws, which he said were opened up some by Willis.
North Bend walks over Willamette at North Bend High School on Friday.
“You can’t take D down with one guy or two guys — you need three,” Compton said, adding that the Wolverines were forced to focus on Willis every play, leaving him mostly open. “I feel good going one-on-one with somebody.”
Hannah said the Bulldogs wanted to establish the run after struggling in the second half against Ridgeview.
“We were a little slow on the run last week,” he said. “We just saw what we did (wrong) on film and picked it up.”
North Bend’s offense was great, running for 448 yards and passing for 93 more — including 56 on a pass from Ian Spalding to Moe. The defense was strong, too.
Willamette had just 15 rushing yards when the 10 tackles for loss were added in.
“I think we played good after that (Willamette) drive,” said Hannah, one of the key Bulldogs up front.
Willamette’s Damein Kirkpatrick did pass for 257 yards, but several of North Bend’s interceptions were great plays by the defensive backs after the Wolverines had driven into North Bend territory.
“We were all just reading the coverage,” Moe said.
In addition to Posey’s pick-six and the two interceptions by Moe, North Bend got picks by Teron Catanzaro, Spalding and John Burgmeier.
North Bend's Divenson Willis breaks through the Willamette defense Friday at North Bend High School.
North Bend got a special teams touchdown, too, when Hannah blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone to give the Bulldogs a 44-7 halftime lead.
Compton said the Bulldogs will have the same focus in practice this week.
“It’s that life-or-death scenario,” he said. “You don’t want this time to end.”