Close call for West Sound

The matchup between West Sound and Willamette Valley was billed as the Saints’ biggest challenge in August and a potential playoff preview.

Only the first scenario seemed feasible, though, as the Saints stumbled to a 10-6 victory Saturday at Silverdale Stadium.

“It has been up and down,” said Saints’ coach Ken Austin, referring to the season. “Now, (quarterback Caleb Eastman) is starting to understand the league is good. Once we get the offense clicking, we’ll be in great shape.”

The West Sound (6-2) offense has struggled since outscoring its opponents 136-13 in its first three games. The Saints defeated the expansion Apple Valley Bucks, 47-6, on July 24, but most of those points came during the second half.

Neither team was able to build momentum early. On their first play of the game, West Sound running back Andre Edwards fumbled the ball after picking up an 18-yard gain. Instead of having possession at the Raiders’ 36-yard line, Willamette Valley (6-3) recovered the ball.

Five turnovers and 11 penalties — including the ejection of quarterback Terrance Dickens — during the game prevented the Raiders from sustaining many drives.

West Sound’s first score, a field goal by Larry Moody with 11:20 minutes remaining in the second quarter, can almost solely by attributed to the Saints’ defense. After stopping Willamette Valley at its own 5, West Sound started at the Raiders’ 20, where it was unable to move the ball.

And if the Saints’ first score mostly was courtesy of the defense, the second was 100 percent attributable to that side of the ball.

That’s because West Sound linebacker Derrick Saulsberry intercepted a Frank Ulrich pass that was tipped and returned for a touchdown to give the Saints a 10-0 lead with 10:53 remaining in the first half.

The production halted there, though. West Sound had other opportunities, but failed to capitalize. During its first drive in the second half, Eastman found wide receiver Marvin Bronson for a 43-yard touchdown. Unfortunately for the Saints, the score was negated because of a blocking infraction.

Then, a familiar name to West Sound fans appeared at quarterback for Willamette Valley — David Littleton. It was Littleton who engineered a 12-9 come-from-behind victory for the now-defunct Multnomah County Bucs on July 17 in Silverdale. And Littleton made it interesting when he found former Washington State University receiver Scott Lunde for a 15-yard touchdown with 2:50 remaining in the game.

West Sound linebacker Eddie Llamas had other ideas about sending Littleton home happy again, though, blocking an extra-point attempt that left the Saints’ lead at 10-6.

“Every year I’ve played in this league, I’ve watched the other team (before the game),” Llamas said. “When the holder puts his hand up, I time it.”

That gave Llamas an idea about when the snap would come — knowledge he successfully utilized.

That forced the Raiders into an onside kick, which the Saints recovered and ran out the clock.

“We just got caught up with some penalties,” said Raiders’ wide receiver Robert Prescott, a former Oregon State University standout. “We’ll bounce back and hopefully get another opportunity to play here in the playoffs.”

West Sound hosts the Oregon Panthers at 6 p.m. today.

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