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Apollos erupt for 35 straight, upend Wildcats

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset wide receivers Jeff Bieber and Matt Burton celebrate Bieber's 22-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter of the Apollos win over Westview.

Any detractors who think momentum is mythical in football should ask Sunset about the so called abstract theory and how it affected the outcome of their final regular season contest against Westview.

While they’re at it, ask the Wildcats what it’s like to be blindsided by a 35-foot tidal wave of points, yards, and stops.

Trailing 19-7 with 4:37 to go in the second quarter, Sunset scored two touchdowns in a rapid fire one-minute span to recover a 21-19 lead going into halftime. With the game’s energy slanting their way, the Apollos came out in the third quarter and scored 21 more points to open a 42-19 advantage, and eventually churn out a 42-27 win.

“We realized the importance of this game and just turned it back on,” said wide receiver Matt Burton. “From there, we made it happen. We came out big and kept it rolling from there. We have better athletes and better players than they do. We just played better football.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview defensive back Henry Sundin picks up a Sunset fumble as linebacker Mitch Kekel looks on in the first quarter of the Wildcats loss to the Apollos.

Westview controlled its own playoff destiny going into the game. Win, and the Wildcats would’ve received a bye in the first round of the 6A playoffs along with sole possesion of second place in the Metro League. Instead, Westview dropped to fourth place with the loss and will play a 6A “Play-In” game on Friday at home against South Eugene. Sunset, with the win, gets a bye and the week off.

“We were overlooking this game,” said Westview quarterback Austin Brisbee. “We didn’t play the type of football that we’re capable of playing. We failed as a team on offense in the second half. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, we just didn’t do what we know how to do. The first half we got a lead, and I think we got a little cocky with ourselves. We stopped showing up.”

Between the 4:37 mark in the second quarter and the end of the third, Sunset scored 35 unanswered points through a combination of Sunset quarterback Willy Pflug eviscerating Westview’s defense through the air, the Apollo wide receivers making sensational catches for their signal caller, and the Sunset defense forcing Westview’s offense off the field in blistering fashion.

After Westview’s Austin Bovero crashed into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown run that gave the Wildcats a 19-7 lead, Sunset didn’t panic. The Apollo offense knew they’d eventually wear down the Wildcats. Because that’s what they do.by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset wide receiver Matt Burton celebrates his second touchdown of the night in the third quarter of the Apollos 42-27 win over Westview

Pflug scrambled for 33 yards on the next drive and found a skying Jeff Bieber for a 22-yard touchdown on a well-placed fade route that trimmed the deficit to 19-14 with 3:09 to go.

Craving more, Sunset’s special teams unit jarred the ball away from Westview’s Jacob Sturtevant on the following kickoff near the Wildcats’ 20 yard line. One mad pile later, Sunset senior Andrew Eickelberg triumphantly raced out of the heap with the pigskin high above his head, giving the Apollos the ball back with three minutes to go.

Two plays in the wake of Eickelberg’s recovery, sophomore running back Caden Carter took to a zone read handoff and cut up the middle of the Wildcat defense for an untouched, 11-yard touchdown. Abruptly, Sunset — a team that looked flat for a quarter and a half — had flipped the script on Westview and gone ahead 21-19.

“If we’re rolling, we’re rolling,” said running back Charles Wenzel, who ran 14 times for 101 yards. “When our line is blocking and giving Willie time, he can find the open receiver, and we can put points up on the board.”

The points kept coming in a third quarter avalanche of precise offensive execution and resolute defense.

Following a three-and-out by the Apollo defense that gave Sunset the ball at the Wildcat 45 yard line, Wenzel ripped off a 20-yard run to put his team inside the red zone.

Pflug and Burton then hooked up on the next play for a 5-yard touchdown to push the lead to 28-19.

“Once we got our run game established, then pass game kind of came along with it,” said Pflug, who threw for 212 yards and five touchdowns. “If you have a combo of pass game, run game, then it’s always going to work out. It keeps them on their toes.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset running back Charles Wenzel and the Apollo offense scored 35 straight points against Westview to pull away for a 42-27 win on Friday.

Playmakers

Sunset spread Westview out with four and five wide receiver package sets, making it nearly impossible for the Wildcats to double team Bieber, Burton, Michael Kerns or Kasey Porter. Matched up in isolation scenarios, Sunset’s pass catching core chowed down on the Westview’s defensive backs, and Pflug doled out a hearty helping of deadly dimes. Porter caught a 34-yard score from Pflug on the game’s first possesion.

“If they’re not going to double team any of us, we know we have playmakers who can do great things,” said Bieber, who finished with eight catches for 68 yards. “Willie did a great job of getting it to everybody.”

“Pflug captains this offense very well,” added Burton. “It’s amazing what he does out there. We find the match-ups we want. Willy makes his pre-snap reads and throws to the guy who’s open.”

Bieber also gave a shout out to his offensive line of Mark Iguidbashian, Sam Alkana, Josh Brown and Joseph Peterson for providing Pflug with enough time in the pocket. The 6-foot-3 Bieber caught a 2-yard jump ball touchdown from his junior signal caller with 1:03 left in the third to balloon Sunset’s lead to 42-19.

“The focus was just there,” said Bieber. “Willy did a great job of throwing us the ball, and it’s pretty easy when you have such a great quarterback.”

“We work a lot together during practices and in the offseason as well,” added Pflug. “That’s where it pays off the most. It’s nice to develop that so you know where they’re going to be in games.”

Sunset’s defense proceeded to provide its offense with even more backing on the next possesion. Senior cornerback Armin Ghorashian ran stride-for-stride with Westview wide receiver Matt Allee on 3 and 8 and picked off Brisbee to instantly pitch the ball back to Pflug and company.by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview defensive lineman Carson Hensleigh wraps up Sunset's Charles Wenzel for a loss in the first quarter of the Wildcats defeat on Friday.

Pflug threw a spiraling seed to Burton, who got behind the Wildcat secondary, maintained concentration with two Westview defensive backs trying to distract him, and clutched the football in his hands for another score, 35-19.

“I feel like we built off each other’s energy,” said Burton. “We were down, but we took it one play at a time. We used each other, built off each other and made plays because of each other.”

Three-way tie

Sunset’s salty defense of Bieber, Eickelberg, Brown, Bobby Rake, Kincaid Crile, Seth Wilson, amongst others, were everywhere all night. Shooting through gaps upfront on timed blitzes that bothered Brisbee, and flocking to the football with gangs of tacklers, the Apollo defense atoned for giving up three scores in the first half by playing animated and angry in the final two quarters.

“We played hard,” said Bieber. “We made plays when we had to. We stopped them and got three-and-outs.”

Westview’s businesslike first half in which Jacob Short jolted 8 yards for a first quarter touchdown run and Brisbee galloped 40 yards to the house on a perfect zone-option read was obscured by turnovers and three-and-outs in the second half.

“Seven points in the second half isn’t going to cut it,” said Brisbee. “We didn’t come out and execute the way we did against Southridge, and it showed. Sunset came out firing in the second half, and we came out flat. They took advantage of all the mistakes we made. They capitalized, and we didn’t.”

The victory created a three-way tie for second place in Metro between Sunset, Southridge and Westview. Since the Apollos rose to No. 16 in the OSAA power rankings, while the Wildcats dropped to 19th, Sunset gets the league’s third automatic 6A playoff spot.

“I think we can do something in the playoffs,” said Burton. “We have an offense that people can’t stop. We can score touchdowns on any football team out here.”



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