Marcus Larson/News-Register##
McMinnville s Colton Smith is lifted into the air by Grizzly lineman John Kropf after Smith scored the winning TD on an 83-yard kickoff return with 17-seconds left in the game.
Marcus Larson/News-Register## McMinnville's Colton Smith is lifted into the air by Grizzly lineman John Kropf after Smith scored the winning TD on an 83-yard kickoff return with 17-seconds left in the game.
By Rusty Rae • Sport Editor • 

Grizzlies rally for 50-43 win over Bulldogs, meet Grant in first round of playoffs

ALBANY – McMinnville’s football team would not quit. Not when it was down 15-0 barely two minutes into the game, not when it was down 29-7 midway through the second quarter, and most definitely not when it was down 43-42 with 29 seconds left in the game. That’s when the Grizzlies' speedster Colton Smith took the kickoff and jetted 83 yards to give the Grizzlies an improbable 50-43 GVC win over West Albany.

With the win, McMinnville moves into a tie with McNary for third place in the GVC with the Grizzlies owning the head-to-head win over the Celtics. The win also moves McMinnville into the 19th slot in the state rankings as the Grizzlies await who they will play in the first round of the state playoffs next week.

McMinnville used a dominant second half to turn the tide against the Bulldogs, who will move down to the 5A division next year. The Grizzlies took the opening kickoff and drove 70 yards in 10 plays with Smith doing the honors for the final seven-yards on a fade from Sam DuPuis to the left corner of the end zone, closing the score to 29-21 at the 7:50 mark of the third quarter.

With 4:06 left in the third, DuPuis hit Smith again, this time on a five-yard fade. That drew McMinnville closer to the Bulldogs, at 29-27 as the Grizzlies’ two-point conversion failed. The Bulldogs showed they too had little quit in them, scoring at the 1:50 mark of the third quarter for a 36-27 lead. They followed up by intercepting DuPuis on Mac’s next drive.

However, McMinnville’s defense stiffened, forcing the Bulldogs to punt. Starting from the Grizzlies’ 38, McMinnville drove to the West Albany 32. From the 32-yard line, the Grizzlies ran a pitch to Odin Thorson. Thorson tossed a near perfect pass to a wide-open Smith, tightening the score to 36-33 in West Albany’s favor at the 9:18 mark.

The Grizzlies forced the Bulldogs to punt again. Starting at their 25-yard line, the locals drove to the West Albany 21 where Thorson scored on a jet sweep giving the Grizzlies their first lead of the night, 42-36 at the 1:31 mark of the fourth.

But the game wasn't over by a long shot. As well as the McMinnville defense played in the second, West Albany seemed to have its number. With the Grizzlies getting whistled for a pair personal fouls, the Bulldogs drove in for what seemed to be the winning score with 29 seconds.

Then came the kickoff to Smith and a two-point conversion in which DuPuis, under severe duress, kept the play alive and then hit Thorson who made a terrific catch, showing body control beyond belief as he managed to snag the pass and stay inbounds.

With 17 seconds left in the contest, the Grizzlies had to merely contain the West Albany for two plays. A final catch at the Mac 25-yard line saw time run out.  

McMinnville would just as soon forget the first half, particularly the first two minutes, in which they seemingly entered the contest with the Bulldogs in sleep walk mode. West Albany took the opening kickoff and scored in two plays as senior Riley Bauman sliced in from 32-yards out. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bulldogs pooch-kicked with the ball landing in from of the Grizzly returner. He failed to capture it, and the Bulldogs pounced on the free ball.

Three plays later, Caulin Leach mauled the Grizzlies for nine yards and a second score. When QB Nick Fleetwood sprinted around the end for a two-point conversion, McMinnville found itself on the short end of a 15-0 score.

The Grizzlies finally got on the board with two minutes left in the first quarter when DuPuis hit Smith for 58 yards. Koby Wright’s PAT was good and Mac trailed 15-7.

Leach then scored again for West Albany from 25-yards out for a 22-7 lead with 37 seconds left in the first stanza. The Grizzlies fumbled on their next drive, giving the Bulldogs the ball on the Mac 44. The Bulldogs drove to the nine-yard line and Fleetwood showed his name is no fluke, as he scored on a read-option, outrunning the Grizzly defense. With 8:57 left in the second period the Grizzlies were down 29-7.

DuPuis was 20-25-1 for 417 yards and three TDs. The Grizzly QB also had 57-yards of rushing on seven carries, with several runs showing stalwart will as he made something out of nothing to keep drives alive.

 Smith had 310-yards on 11 catches and five carries for 20-yards. Thorson had 9 catches for 98 yards and three carries for 23-yards.

McMinnville will meet Grants High School on the Marshall Campus Friday at 7 p.m.

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