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Garrett Willenberg runs for over 200 yards and a score; Sandy defense pitches shutout

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Sandy senior Garrett Willenberg ran for over 200 yards and a touchdown in a 14-7 win over Reynolds. In the midst of a nail-biting, "ugly" game of football marked by bone-crunching runs and defensive stops, Sandy turned time and time again to their bruising senior runner.

Garrett Willlenberg put on a show in a game without many offensive fireworks. Battered and bloodied, he toted the ball more than 200 yards and a touchdown to power the Pioneers to victory over visiting Reynolds.

"It wasn't the score we wanted, but we fought hard for this win," he said.

Sandy (4-3, 4-1 League) bested No. 16 Reynolds (4-3, 2-3) in a Mt. Hood Conference showdown Thursday evening, Oct. 13, in front of a packed house.

"The bottom line is we won a football game," said Coach Josh Dill. "Sometimes that might be an ugly win, but I'm proud of us."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Pioneers senior Payton Giusto in a win over Reynolds Thursday, Oct. 13.  The win makes it four in a row for the Pioneers as they find their footing at the perfect time with postseason looming. Again it was the defense who put on a show, not allowing a single offensive touchdown for the Raiders and turning them back despite lopsided field position thanks to some hiccups on special teams.

"The defense has only given up two touchdowns in the last three weeks, they have been absolutely dominant" Dill said. "They are our backbone."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - There wasn't much running room for Reynolds senior Abraham DeJesus as the Pioneers defense was stifling.  An opening 71-yard drive had the Pioneers firing on all cylinders as they quickly found the end zone on a 16-yard run from Willenberg.

"Garrett got downhill so well tonight," Dill said. "He runs nasty, physical — it is such a luxury to have a guy like him."

"I was feeling great running, but I can't do it without my line opening those holes," Willenberg added. "We take pride in that physicality and have been working hard all season in practice and the weight room."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Reynolds senior Abraham DeJesus celebrates one of the missed field goals from Sandy.  In the final minutes of the half, Sandy seemed poised to score again. Two missed passes into the end zone later, the Pioneers lined up for a field goal with 2 seconds on the clock. That is when Reynolds scored their only touchdown in what made for a wonky end to the half.

First, hulking sophomore nose guard Ayden Hancox fought through the line and blocked the kick, which was subsequently scooped up by senior Anthony Dickson and returned 80-yards to make it 7-7 at the break.

"Hats off to Reynolds, they played hard and didn't go away," Dill said.

Sandy continued to struggle on special teams. The opening kickoff of the third quarter was returned by the Raiders to their own 40-yard line. And the Pioneers missed two other field goals that would have built a cushion in the low-scoring affair. But the defense remained stout and prevented Reynolds from gaining any foothold on the ground, containing the talented backfield duo of seniors Abraham DeJesus and Dre'Quan Williams.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Sandy junior Cole Rotzien, left, celebrates his final touchdown of the win over Reynolds Thursday, Oct. 13.Sandy's final touchdown came after recovering a fumble from Reynolds senior quarterback Alex Treat early in the fourth quarter. The following play junior Cole Rotzien took it 18 yards for the score.

The Raiders had a final shot at the win with just under 4 minutes on the clock. But the Pioneers defense again hit its mark. First junior linebacker Alex Hager made a tackle for a loss. Then senior Leithan Thompson made a pair of plays — a near interception on second down and a deflected pass at the line on third — that sealed it.

While the fans might be celebrating the four-game streak, the players are taking it week by week.

"We are just focused on the next game right now," Willenberg said.

Sandy will next host Nelson on Thursday, Oct. 20, in the penultimate game of the regular season.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Sandy sophomore Mataio Olomua was part of a potent running attack in a low-scoring affair.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Senior Garrett Willenberg credited his offensive line for his success on the ground.

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