WEST SALEM — Football teams always talk about the importance of winning the fourth quarter. Four fingers go up on each hand after the end of the third quarter. Coaches and players stress the word “finish.”
Sometimes, though, if you don’t win the first quarter, you don’t win the game.
That fate befell West Salem on Friday – and brought an end to the Titans’ win streak and season.
Visiting Sherwood outscored the Titans 21-0 in the first quarter of their Class 6A second-round playoff game and then held on for a 35-27 victory.
“That was a pretty big hole we dug, especially against a team that can run the ball well and use up clock,” Titans coach Shawn Stanley said.
After trailing 28-7 through two quarters, West Salem played more like, well, West Salem.
“We played really well in the second half,” Stanley said.
But the upstart Bowmen made the one defensive play they needed at the end. They stopped Titans senior quarterback Brooks Ferguson about a yard short on a fourth-and-4 run-pass option run from the Sherwood 10-yard-line with 1:22 left.
West Salem, which had won its previous six games and won its league outright with a 6-0 record, ended up with a 9-2 record for 2021.
“I’m extremely proud of what these guys accomplished and how they came back Friday,” Stanley said. “There was no finger-pointing or anything that some adversity can bring about. All of the guys stuck together. That’s what I’ll take from the game.
“They gave us a chance to win. They showed their true character, which I knew they would.”
Sherwood, which has a most-unusual season game log, will get a shot at powerful, fourth-ranked Central Catholic (12-0) on Friday in a quarterfinal game at Hillsboro Stadium.
The Bowmen were the underdog, on paper, going into the West Salem game. Sherwood was ranked 21st in 6A by the Oregon School Activities Association; the Titans were ranked fifth.
But Sherwood had been playing a lot of good football. The Bowmen posted a road upset in the first round, too, knocking off Sandy 51-32. And that was Sherwood’s sixth win in a row since losing its first four games, all non-league.
The Bowmen’s victory at West Salem made them the first team in Oregon to reach the quarterfinals after starting a season 0-4.
“They have a quarterback who was surprisingly accurate and hit some throws downfield when our coverage wasn’t bad,” Stanley said. “Their offense sustains blocks. And defensively, I was impressed by how well they tackled.”
Sherwood opened the scoring 3 ½ minutes into Friday’s game. After the defense stopped West Salem on downs near midfield, Bowmen senior quarterback Bjorn Bergstrom connected with senior wide receiver Cody Hall on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
The Bowmen scored at the 6:58 mark of the opening quarter when senior running back Seth Glenn broke off a 48-yard TD run.
With 2:20 left in the quarter, Sherwood made it a 21-0 difference on a 28-yard Bergstrom-to-Hall pass play.
West Salem got on the scoreboard in the second quarter, as senior running back Johnny Withers carried the ball 25 yards to the end zone. Withers would finish the game with 102 yards rushing.
But Sherwood got the only other points of the second quarter on sophomore running back Nolan Scott’s 24-yard dash with 4:17 to go in the half.
West Salem cut its deficit to 28-13 6 ½ minutes into the third quarter, with Ferguson blasting across the goal line from the 1. That capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive.
Just 21 seconds later, Hall came right back with a TD on a 79-yard pass hookup with Bergstrom.
Down 35-13, the Titans began to come back. Brody McMullen, a senior, took a Ferguson pass over the middle 80 yards for a score, and Ferguson ran for two points, making the score 35-21.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ferguson found senior wideout Zach Dodson-Greene for 33 yards and a TD on a fourth-down, double-move route, and the score was 35-27 with 10:35 left.
But West Salem couldn’t get the equalizer, and Sherwood gained a quarterfinals berth for the first time since 2015, when the Bowmen continued on to the semifinals.
The Titans’ last quarterfinal appearance was in 2017, when they finished 10-2.
Glenn gave Sherwood a dependable ground game in this year’s second-round game, toting the ball 15 times for 155 yards.
Ferguson rushed for 91 yards and threw for 193, with one interception.
A lost fumble set up one of Sherwood’s early touchdowns, and an interception thrown by West Salem in scoring territory due to a miscommunication between quarterback and receiver also hurt the Titans.