NORTH BEND — Finally on its home field and on homecoming night, North Bend’s football team played its best game of the season Friday, beating Willamette 26-16 in the first contest on the new Vic Adams Field turf.
“It’s a nice feeling,” said North Bend lineman Trevor Henderson.
The Bulldogs got a big night out of their defense, which forced six turnovers, and had a few big plays on offense, as well.
One of those came on the first possession, when quarterback Sam Mickelson hit Craig Edera with a short pass on third down and he raced down to Willamette’s 2-yard line. Mickelson scored the first touchdown the next play and Ronald Higgins added the extra point.
The defense sparked the second touchdown with Henderson recovering a fumble by Willamette’s quarterback. Sidon Green finished a quick drive with a 1-yard touchdown, diving across the goal line.
The next turnover came on the next play, when the Bulldogs recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Willamette stopped North Bend’s drive with an interception, but David Roberts responded with an interception for North Bend.
The Bulldogs weren’t able to get anything going, but stopped the Wolverines after Willamette had moved deep into North Bend territory, taking a 13-0 lead to the locker room.
North Bend added to the advantage on the first possession of the third when Michael Shamoon burst through the line on a Willamette punt, blocked the kick and recovered the ball in the end zone.
It was an example of some of North Bend’s strong play on the line.
“We dominated up front on both sides of the ball,” Henderson said.
Willamette got on the scoreboard when quarterback Ryan Prescott hit Griffin Bushnell for a 19-yard score and Jermain Richards for the two-point conversion, cutting the edge to 20-8.
The Wolverines got the ball back, but North Bend’s Kolby Van Elsberg recovered a fumble. Edera, who had replaced Mickelson at quarterback after a shoulder injury, sprinted around the left end for an 8-yard score and North Bend led 26-8 early in the fourth quarter.
Konnor Jelinek, who had several pass break-ups, intercepted a pass to stop Willamette’s next drive and then Kevin Jones broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone after a bad snap on a punt attempt gave the Wolverines the ball deep in North Bend territory.
“The defense front seven played really well,” Henderson said. “We got a lot of pressure on the quarterback and he made some mistakes.”
Roberts had another interception in the end zone to end another Willamette drive before the Wolverines got a final score late in the game on a fumble return for a touchdown by Travis Grantom.
When North Bend ran out the clock on its next possession, the vocal student section and rest of the fans were able to celebrate a win.
“It’s a nice feeling, especially the first game on the new field and homecoming,” said Green, who had a number of tough runs for the Bulldogs, as well as helping shore up the defense.
“Our defense was lights out,” Green said. “For the most part we shut their guys down.”
North Bend had lost three straight games and hadn’t scored in two of them, though the defense had played great a week earlier in a 10-0 loss at Springfield.
“We needed that,” North Bend coach Gary Prince said. “I’m excited for the kids.
“I know it hasn’t gone how we would like, but they have worked extremely hard. We will take this and enjoy it. I’m proud of them.”
He noted North Bend hadn’t played in front of a full set of fans on its home field since the fall of 2019.
“It was nice to have some people out there,” Prince said.
The Bulldogs are home again this Friday, hosting Eagle Point in what will be the annual Miss Flame game.