By Ossie Bladine • Editor • 

Pirates lose heartbreaker

BEND - The Nyssa Bulldogs executed a three-minute, 78-yard drive and scored a go-ahead touchdown with 25 seconds to go to defeat the defending state champion Dayton Pirates, 19-15, Saturday evening in a Class 3A semifinal game at Summit High School.

On fourth and 10 from the Dayton 31, Nyssa quarterback Austin Wagstaff connected with John Bates for an 18-yard reception, and then found Dalton Conant in the endzone on the next play.

It was the first lead for the Bulldogs in the game.

Bates, a six-foot, four-inch sophomore, caught four passes - each one more critical than the last - for 122 yards.

Dayton took the lead 15-13 early in the fourth on a safety resulting from an intentional grounding penalty. Dayton defensive end Tony Alvarez sacked Wagstaff on Bulldog 3-yard line on second down, then forced the quarterback to throw it away from the endzone on third down resulting in the safety.

The game between two evenly matched teams seemed destined to go down to the wire. The largest lead of the game was at 7-0 when Dayton runningback Tyler Clark scored a 7-yard touchdown run on the team’s opening drive.

After each team went three and out, Nyssa answered with a 1-yard touchdown run by Austin Castro, which was set up by a 57-yard reception by Bates on the previous play.

With 30 seconds left in the half, Clark took a screen pass from quarterback Darren Ashley 14 yards into the endzone, but a holding penalty was called on the 1-yard line, negating the score. The teams went in tied 7-7 at half.

On Dayton's first posession of the third quarter, Ashley scored on a 23-yard quarterback keeper to give Dayton a 13-6 lead. The play was set up by five straight rushes by Clark for 32 yards. Ashley faked the handoff to Clark on the seventh play of the drive, which drew the Bulldogs defense to one side and opened up a lane to the endzone for Ashley.

The Pirate’s point after touchdown was blocked.

Nyssa answered on its next drive. The Bulldogs ran for two first downs, then Wagstaff completed a 26-yard pass to Bates to the Dayton 10-yard line. After three short rushes, Wagstaff scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak on fourth and goal. The Bulldog’s PAT was blocked, keeping it a tie game at 13-13.

After the safety, Dayton turned it over on downs on the Bulldog 33-yard line. The Pirated recovered a Nyssa fumble two plays later, then converted a fourth and 1 on a 5-yard run by Connor Spivey. But a holding call in the backfield on second down made it second and 22 and the Pirates ended up having to punt, setting up the game-winning drive by Nyssa.

After the game, with several players fighting off tears, head coach Brody Unger praised his team for taking the season’s expectations head on.

“You embraced those expectations,” Unger said. “You should be proud of yourselves, because I am. I’m so dang proud of you guys.”

See Tuesday’s News-Register for more.


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