Saints open up ’06 with a bang

Saints running back Malachi Dewalt, a big part of team success last year, breaks loose for a first down. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Saints running back Malachi Dewalt, a big part of team success last year, breaks loose for a first down.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

It started right up, sputtered a little bit and then ran like a dream.

The West Sound Saints picked up right where they left off last season, stretching a thin halftime lead Saturday against the Oregon Thunderbolts to a decisive 42-9 victory in their Northwest Football League (NWFL) opener.

A punishing defensive stand to open things up and an atrocious fake punt call by the T-Bolts handed the Saints the ball in the red zone for their first possession and they capitalized without any problem as Keith Griffin plunged across the goal line for six from 1-yard out, less than five minutes into the game.

First-year quarterback Kyle Nelson kicked the PAT to answer the placekicking question that plagued the Saints in the weeks leading up to their opener and finished 4-for-5 in that role, while the ensuing kickoff was one of several to sail out-of-bounds, showing the team still has an opening in that slot.

The T-Bolts took advantage of the field position the first errant kick provided, marching down the field for the answering drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown toss by Phil Atkinson. Eddie Llamas blocked the ensuing PAT to preserve the Saints’ lead.

The sputtering began for the Saints a series later when a fumbled handoff set the Bolts up for a go-ahead field goal.

The Saints struggled to move the ball for much of the remainder of the first half until Olympic High product Malachi Dewalt got rolling on a drive from midfield and put the exclamation point on the possession with a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:55 left in the second quarter.

The Bolts threatened before halftime but a sack, one of eight for West Sound in the contest, quashed the threat before time expired.

In the second half, a handful of Saints arrived to play their second game of the day after playing in the Pacific Northwest Football Conference (PNFC) championship for their spring league team, the Seattle Stallions.

Fatigue, however, was not a factor. Stallion Ramon Martinez caught a 7-yard strike from Nelson to put the Saints up 21-9 and hauled in a 31-yard bomb for another score on the ensuing West Sound possession.

Also fresh off a drive from the east side, Jackie Triplett snagged an Atkinson pass and took it to the barn with 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter and Dewalt found Marvin Bronson for a two-point conversion to stretch the Saints’ lead to 35-9 heading into the last stanza.

“There’s only a few routes they can run on (my) side. It was just right there so I jumped it and took it to the house,” Triplett said of the pick. “It’s nice for a defensive score once in a while.”

Bronson moved back into his familiar quarterback role to close out the game and provided Martinez the ball for his third touchdown catch to cap off the win for the Saints.

First-year Saints coach Les Archer came away pleased with his team’s performance.

“Once our playmakers showed up from the (PNFC) championship game, things looked good,” Archer said. “We had better defensive quickness in the second half and I was pleased with Kyle Nelson and Marvin Bronson throwing the ball.”

“It’s good to be able to get in there early and get in on some sacks and some tackles for losses,” said linebacker Eddie Llamas, the game’s leading tackler. “I was real impressed with my D-line. It’s beautiful having those big guys up there creating holes.”

Winning the Saints’ game and the PNFC trophy helped Triplett forget how hard it is to play twice in the same day.

“I’m feelin’ pretty good,” Triplett said after the victory. “The wins make me forget I’ve got a headache.”

The Saints return to action 6:30 p.m. Saturday against the Multnomah County Buccaneers.

The Bucs have traditionally been a tough foe for the organization as the Saints defeated Multnomah County for the first time in franchise history last season.

Multnomah County enters the game fresh off a 12-6 win against the Renton Ravens in their opener.

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