CORVALLIS — The hosting Blue Devils showed in Friday's season opener that their method for success — a steady dose of ball control and running plays — hasn't changed from last season's postseason squad. The recipe ran Corvallis out to a 14-0 first-half lead, which turned into a tenuous 14-13 win against Bitterroot rival Stevensville.
The Yellowjackets, mounting a second-half comeback that fell just short, showed that they have a bright future.
Stevensville freshman quarterback Sahkaia Wehr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown and then connected on a scoring throw to junior running back Ben Tack with 4:32 remaining in the game to pull within one point. First-year head coach Trae Williams opted to go for the 2-point conversion and the lead.
"We decided we'd go for the win. Thought we didn't have anything to lose — we're ranked 21st out of 21 teams. What's there to lose? We were gonna go for the win," said Williams, who walked off the field with his arm around his quarterback playing in his first-ever varsity football game.
But Corvallis' defense, which had been called for three penalties that extended Stevensville's scoring drive and had an apparent fumble recovery blown dead, held on the conversion try.
The Blue Devil defense wasn't done yet, though. Corvallis' offense, which was tough to slow in the first half, had two more three-and-outs before the game's final whistle blew. Corvallis kept Stevi from converting a fourth-down pass that was on target but fell to the turf with 2:02 remaining.
When Stevensville got the ball back with 1:39 remaining, it was a Chase Tucker interception for Corvallis that ultimately sealed the game. Jaymark Liedle, who had two interceptions for the Blue Devils himself, had the initial deflection on the ball causing it to pop into Tucker's awaiting arms.
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"Jaymark makes things happen, he's a leader on the field," Corvallis coach Clayton Curley said. "In the huddle he's telling guys what to do, he calls the plays and we love what he does defensively and offensively."
From there, Liedle, now at quarterback, was able to kneel the clock away. In the first half, though, it was the Blue Devils' run game that ate up time.
A 5-yard touchdown run from Colton Nelson gave Corvallis a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter. Corvallis then forced a turnover on downs with 10:20 remaining in the half and started its march.
Fifteen plays and 9 minutes, 10 seconds later, junior fullback Clay Barcus punched in a 1-yard run on fourth down to give the Blue Devils a 13-0 lead.
"He's a big kid. He's one of our captains. When he gets the ball, he's definitely gonna get us three yards in a cloud of dust," Curley said of Barcus.
The extra point from Emil Bohnet gave Corvallis the decisive point it would ultimately need.