Garcia, Dayton back in the 3A state semifinals
DAYTON — Friday’s 3A state quarterfinal playoff game between No.1-ranked Dayton and No. 5-ranked Willamina was never in doubt. This time there was no nail-biting finish or game-winning touchdown run. The Pirates (10-0) pulled away in the third quarter and won 54-20 in front of a loud home crowd at Coach Dewey Sullivan Stadium.
Dayton moves onto the 3A state semifinals for the third consecutive season and will play Santiam Christian in a much anticipated rematch of last season’s state final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Willamette University. With the loss, the Bulldogs’ (7-4) season is over.
The star of the night was never in doubt either. Dayton senior running back Forrest Garcia controlled the ground game.
“Forrest definitely had a good game,” Willamina coach Tim France said. “The offensive line was able to open up good holes for him and that’s when he did some damage. We know what he’s capable of and know what he does and how he does it, but just because you know it’s coming, doesn’t mean you can always stop it.”
Garcia rushed for 145 yards and three touchdowns, but it was something he said wasn’t supposed to happen.
“I was really out there as a decoy,” Garcia said. “They tend to key in on me so much that we worked on a passing attack game plan instead of running and it worked well tonight.”
Dayton quarterback Nathan Bernards passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
“(Bernards) had a great game,” Dayton coach Brodie Unger said. “All year we’ve been trying to progress with his reads and we want to establish more of a pass game and he’s done a very good job and leads our offense.”
Garcia gave the Pirates their first lead at 15-8 early in the second quarter. The Dayton offense was on the 13-yard line when Bernards handed the ball to Garcia, who went right, cut further to the right to throw off two Willamina defenders, and easily got into the end zone for the score.
“Last time we ran a lot of ‘thunder’ plays,” Garcia said. “It was a lot of up the middle, up the middle, but this time we wanted to get to the outside on them and it worked for us.”
With 1 minute, 4 seconds remaining in the second Bernards and receiver Justin Sutton powered the Pirates inside the 10-yard line, and Garcia took over again.
“I wasn’t designated to be the goal line guy,” Garcia said. “Things just kind of worked out that way and it helped us score points and win the game.”
Garcia took the ball from Bernards and again went to the right and ran in it for the score from six yards out to give Dayton the 22-8 lead going into the half. He finished the first half with 65 yards rushing.
Dayton kept pushing to start the third quarter. With 9:50 left in the third quarter, Bernards took the ball from the six yard line, rolled to the left and ran it in for the 29-8 lead.
At 11:25 in the fourth, Garcia returned to action and put the stamp on the Dayton win. He took the handoff, cut left into an open lane and sprinted 34 yards, giving the Pirates the insurmountable 41-14 lead.
On Dayton’s next defensive possession it was Garcia who picked off Willamina quarterback Trevor Hunt and ran it back 74 yards for the defensive score to make it 48-14.
Now the Pirates are faced with yet another rematch. Dayton remembers that tough loss in the state finals a year ago vs. Santiam Christian, and Garcia insists a victory will depend on execution and preparation.
“Definitely have to work hard,” he said. “And get ready for their elusive offense and our defense has to step up. The better defense will win the game.
Notes: Willamina had 175 total yards. It rushed for 136 yards. … Tyson Jahn had 116 yards rushing and one touchdown. … Trevor Hunt passed for 39 yards and threw for one interception. He also ran for one touchdown. … Edwin Villalobos rushed for 20 yards and scored one touchdown.