Football: Woodburn runs over Benson in 24-13 victory
It may have come three weeks later than they would have liked, but the Woodburn football team's 24-13 win over the Benson Techmen on Friday night seemed like a fitting way for the Bulldogs to record their first victory of the 2017 season.
After opening the season with back-to-back road games, the Bulldogs were playing their first home game of the season and unveiled their new scoreboard at Dale Yuranek Field in front of a packed crowd of fans eager to see the team christen the gift from the Woodburn Rotary Foundation with a victory. The Bulldogs were more than happy to deliver.
Woodburn ran up, down and around Benson on Friday, rushing for 252 yards and three touchdowns as the Bulldogs turned a 10-7 lead at the half to a 24-7 advantage before the Techmen scored on the final play of the game to bring the contest to its final margin.
"I thought we played a good game," Woodburn head coach Nick Federico said. "We ran the ball really well."
The Bulldogs were eager to put up points coming off a 46-0 loss at Milwaukie the week before, and had little trouble doing so after a big kickoff return from senior Marcos Orta put the team on the Benson 30-yard line.
Five plays later, senior Steven Martinez drilled a 31-yard field goal that was called back due to holding, but the kicker simply lined up again from 42 yard and let the ball sail through the uprights to give Woodburn an early 3-0 lead.
Benson answered back to open the second quarter on a touchdown pass from Tyler Phillips to Seven Antoine, giving the Techmen their only lead of the game, but it wouldn't last long. Woodburn rumbled down the field on their next possession, highlighted by a 54-yard run senior Luis Guerrero, setting up a 4-yard touchdown run that Guerrero punched in four plays later to give the Bulldogs their three-point lead at the half.
The new sky blue scoreboard was showcased while both teams were in the locker rooms, and the Bulldogs came out in the third quarter as if inspired by the halftime recognition. On the very first play of the third quarter, the Bulldogs stripped Benson's Andrew Ketah, who had relieved an injured Phillips in the second quarter. Woodburn senior EJ Barajas pounced on the ball, giving his team the ball at the 45-yard line.
Two plays later, junior receiver Chandler Vargas took an outside sweep up the right sideline all the way to the house to put the Bulldogs ahead 17-7.
"He's a very special player," Federico said. "He's very skilled, especially being that big and able to move that fast. He runs like a deer. If we can be creative with him, we'll be able to do some stuff."
Vargas finished the game with five carries for 55 yards and was a disruptive force on defense, coming up with two sacks and a forced fumble as a standup outside rusher on the left side.
"He looks like a man, and he runs like a man," Federico said. "If we can get him to that second level, then we've done our job and we're doing good things."
The two teams traded turnovers that stalled potential drives in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs were able to put their foot on the Techmen's throat midway through the fourth quarter. With 7:26 left to play in the game, senior running back Hector Reyes found a seem up the right side, shed a pair of tackles and sprinted 60 yards up the field for the touchdown to make it a 24-7 game.
Although the game was well in hand, Benson made sure to play to the final whistle. With under a minute left in the contest, the Techmen mounted a six-play, 70-yard drive capped by a 50-yard touchdown pass from Ketah to Phillips, who returned to the game to finish with two catches for 57 yards and a score.
Guerrero led all players with 93 yards on 16 carries, followed by Reyes, who had 10 carries for 89 yards. While the Bulldogs' offensive line allowed for more than six yards a carry, Federico made sure to credit his two primary backs and Vargas for making big plays that led to scores.
"The line played really well. They did a very good job, but we have some really skilled running backs," Federico said. "So how can we get them in different formations and that's the beauty of it."
Ketah had a solid game off the bench, leading both teams in passing by completing 14-of-24 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. But the Bulldogs' defense accounted for four forced turnovers, including interceptions from Orta, Jackson Pickett and Jesus Gonzalez that kept Benson's offense from mounting any momentum in the second half.
With the team's first victory in hand, Federico hopes the Bulldogs are back on track to realize their preseason goal of finishing the year with a winning record.
"I think confidence — we don't have confidence and we're building that," Federico said. "We're starting to get it. We don't know how to finish yet, but we're learning."
Woodburn (1-2) returns to the road next week to face the Gladstone Gladiators (1-2), who are coming off a 54-8 win over North Marion in their home opener.
Benson (1-1) returns home to lick their wounds and prepare for their home opener against Fort Vancouver.