Apollo defense stars, Sunset beats Southridge 28-14
10/8/2016 11:40 PM

Sunset wins its third straight game with strong defense

Style points don't countat this point in the season.

And, as aesthetically pleasing as Sunset's offense can be and normally is, sometimes grinding out avictory the old fashioned way with rugged defense and timely big plays will do the trick.

Such was the case on Friday night when the Apollos — admittedly not operating all on offensive pistons for four quarters — won 28-14 over Southridge on the power of their underrated defense and propensity for making plays when needed.

Maybe it wasn't pretty,but all that counts at the end of the day is victory. Plus, with a crucial three-game stretch against the Metro League's top three teams commencing next Friday with a home square-off against cross-town rival Westview, Sunset (3-1 inMetro, 3-3 overall) was willing to take an ugly triumph in order to extend its winning streak to three games.

“A win is a win,” said Sunset senior safety Satchel Phillips. “We're happy with how we played. The defense played real well. There were a lot of things to learn from it and the schedule is gonna get tougher, so we have to get better as we go.”

“In the Metro League, you have to take whatever you can get,” said Sunset junior running back Gabe Leonard.

Southridge (0-4 in Metro,0-6 overall) can attest to Metro's toughness after falling victim to Beaverton, Jesuit, Westview and now Sunset in consecutive weeks. This after playing Sheldon and Tigard, two top-five Class 6A teams in the non-league schedule. The good news for the Skyhawks is there were marked signs of growth against the Apollos. Defensively, Southridge shut out Sunset's customarily high-flyingoffense in the second half and started to cash in passing the ball with touchdown connections between junior quarterback Bradley Bickler and wide receivers Byron Jenkins and sophomore Keyvaun Eady.

The Skyhawks, who are relying on youth in certain key areas on the field, are improving and now have three games against Aloha, Century and Liberty to keep making gains and possibly a last-gasp playoff run.

“I feel like it was a good first step toward next week and the next game,” said Southridge sophomore lineman Kade Hustler. “I think we've been getting each week.”

Sunset's defense was both timely and tenacious: accounting for six takeaways (four turnovers on downs,one fumble recovery and one interception) against a Skyhawk offense that moved the ball at times, but couldn't convert inside the red zone or on critical fourth down plays that handed the pigskin back to the Apollos.

For instance, on Southridge's second offensive possesion, junior quarterback Bradley Bickler was sacked by Anthony Pasion on 4 and 17 from the Apollo 20-yard line with four minutes left to force Sunset's second takeaway on downs inside the red zone inas many possessions.

 “We just have to keep focus and keep pushing,”said Southridge sophomore running back Blake Sims. “We got all the way down there and came up short. If we focus, we can get it. And if we can cut down on our turnovers, we can have a bright future.”

“We have to find that extra gear in the red zone and work for it every snap,” added Hustler.

Two plays later Sunset quarterback Jason DuMont looked off a receiver to his left and scanned his eyesback to the right sideline where he hit Gabe Leonard in-between the numbers with a dime that allowed the speedy running back to skate to the house untouched for the 78-yard score that gave Sunset a 7-0 lead with 3:15 left inthe first quarter.

“We were going to be the hammer, not the nail,” said Gabe Leonard. “We weren't going to let them push us over. It's good to know our defense can stop a team for that long.”

For the second straightweek, Sunset ran like a well-oiled machine, dictating the offense, defense andspecial teams in stellar fashion in the first half. DuMont hit Jacob Leonard ona hitch and the squirrelly wide receiver slipped out of two tackle attempts and sped down the right sideline for the 31-yard score with 5:56 left in the second quarter that gave Sunset a 14-0 lead. Then, Sunset's special teams unit recovered the ensuing onside kick. The Apollo defense — spearheaded by Pasion, Phillips, Garrett Lewis, Andrew Meyer and Nick Wiley and Phillips — forced a trio of consecutive fourth down stops- two of which came inside the red zone and stalled a pair of possible Southridge touchdown drives.

DuMont was a play making menace, not only with his arm, but his non-stop, quick feet that kept plays alive and moved the chains even in the most adverse situations. On 3rd and 15 from the Skyhawk 44, in the second quarter, DuMont was pushed out of the pocket by Southridge outside linebacker Garrett Sackley, but the Apollo signal caller juked, spun and slid 16 yards to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, Wiley plunged four yards up the gut for another Apollo score to go up 21-0 with 3:40 left.

“We had some good momentum swings and used them to our advantage really well,” said Phillips.“That was huge for us. We use those a lot.”

A botched Skyhawk punt on the subsequent possession gave DuMont and company a short field at the Southridge 16, which Sunset quickly exploited with another Wiley score, this one from three yards out to give Sunset a 28-0 lead going into the locker room.

“Our energy was up, we were moving the ball, it felt like nobody could stop us,” said Leonard. “When we get going, we get going well. We all made plays and it was just a great team effort in the first half.”

In the third quarter,Bickler floated a 56-yard pass to Jenkins, who got half a step down the rightsideline and sprinted to pay dirt to put Southridge on the board, 28-6, with 44 seconds left in the third. And later on in the fourth quarter Daniel Buturugaran down DuMont on a fake punt attempt to give the Hawks the ball at their own46. However, Bickler tried to hit a receiver over the middle, but Sunset defensive back Dakota Tomseth tipped the attempt and Phillips plucked it out ofthe air with 8:22 left in the fourth.

And on 4 and 4 at the Apollo 20, Sunset senior linebacker Nathan Getty had a sack-strip of Bicklerand Wiley fell on the football with two minutes left. Sunset proved it can win with finesse and offensive flair, or get its hands dirty and control the game defensively if the offense ever gets sidetracked. Though, the Apollos didn't score in the second half or have much success generating any momentum offensively, Sunset's defense carried the day and ensured the Apollos would keep hold of fourth place in Metro.

“We had 11 guys doing their jobs,” said Phillips. “It was a team defensive effort. As a team we want to get tougher as the game goes on and that ties with get tougher as they get closer to scoring. It's sort of a bend, don't break mentality. We didn't roll over on defense if they made a big play. We got right back up and moved up.”


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