By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

Pirates prevail 14-8 over Willamina in defensive struggle

WILLAMINA – In a titanic defensive battle, the visiting Dayton Pirates prevailed 14-8 over Willamina in tonight’s Class 3A West Valley League matchup. The Pirates’ close win keeps them in first place in the conference, while improving their state ranking to fifth. Willamina drops to fourth in the league, and it’s currently rated 13th in Oregon.

Both teams brought stingy defenses, which resulted in brutal skirmishes in the trenches throughout the contest. Adding to the offensive struggles was a soggy field, contributing to multiple turnovers and dropped passes.

As a consequence of the stout defensive efforts, neither squad could nab an opening score during the first two quarters. The Bulldogs’ best opportunity occurred on a Brad Milton 39-yard field goal attempt during the second period. However, his kick fell agonizingly short, and the game remained tied at zero.

Dayton attempted to seize the first points on a drive with 1:51 remaining in the first half. Tristan Fergus and Bailey West hooked up on passes of 10, 10, 11 and 12 yards to drive to the Willamina 25-yard line. Unfortunately, the pair’s fifth attempt at a connection resulted in a dropped pass and interception.

The Pirates finally broke through for the initial tally with eight minutes remaining in the third. Starting their series at the Bulldog 32, Fergus lofted a 25-yard pass to West. Fergus next hit Zach Russell for a modest gain, then scrambled for three yards to get inside the five-yard line. Russell capped the drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown. After West’s extra point, the visitors held a 7-0 lead.

They would pad their advantage less than two minutes later. Following a Willamina fumble, Fergus hit Huntter Fullbright on a 25-yard fade route to extend the lead to 14-0.

Willamina got on the board with 6:59 remaining as a botched Dayton snap at their own one-yard line resulted in a safety. After the kickoff, the Bulldogs marched 59 yards in nine plays culminating in Milton finding True Gibbons for a 12-yard score. With the margin now 14-8, both sides prepared for desperation.

Alas, the Dayton defense made several outstanding stands down the stretch, snatching away any hope of a home victory for the ‘Dogs. After a last-gasp Willamina drive ended on the Pirate 29-yard line, Russell earned a first down on the next series to run out the clock.

Dayton (6-1, 4-0 WVL) hosts Scio next Friday at 7 p.m.

Willamina (5-2 1-2 WVL) remains at home with next Friday’s league match with Taft at 7 p.m.