Zack Cehrs found out earlier in the week that he might be his team’s primary ballcarrier to open the playoffs.
With teammate Porter Phillips in uniform but on the sideline Friday night, Cehrs and West Albany showed more evidence that they’re far from a one-man, as if any more was needed as the Bulldogs continue their undefeated season.
Cehrs ran for 216 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries as fourth-seeded West scored 56 unanswered points to defeat visiting Redmond 56-13 in an OSAA 5A first-round game at Memorial Stadium.
“It felt good. It’s all thanks to my line making some nice holes, and the receivers making their blocks too on the outside zone runs. I just ran through the hole,” the junior running back said, adding that he’s happy for Phillips’ success even if it means Cehrs doesn’t get to play much.
Phillips, named the Mid-Willamette Conference’s offensive and defensive player of the year this week, didn’t play. Though not elaborating on the reason, West coach Brian Mehl said “He’ll be ready to go next week.”
Next up for the Bulldogs (10-0) is a quarterfinal matchup with sixth-seeded Ashland, which rolled over 11 seed Dallas 50-19 at home Friday night.
A quarterback sack and Redmond fumble recovery gave the 14 seed Panthers (6-4) an early opportunity and some momentum. The visitors took advantage, going 65 yards for the score on Brendan Powell’s 39-yard touchdown run.
But there weren’t too many more highlights for Redmond.
The Bulldogs quickly answered with a 68-yard drive, capped by Cehrs’ 3-yard touchdown run. On the drive, Cehrs had an 18-yard carry, Connor Wolfe a 16-yard catch and Blake Bowers a 15-yard run on a double reverse.
The defense forced a 3-and-out, and on the next offensive play Caeden Zamora hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Carson Van Dyke.
Redmond covered 3 yards on three plays with two offensive penalties before Bowers picked off Panthers quarterback Austin Carter and returned the ball 37 yards for a score.
West’s Chance Hendrickson recovered a fumble on the next drive and returned it 27 yards. Three plays later, Cehrs was in the end zone again, this time from 8 yards out to make it 28-7 in the final minute of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs tacked on a 10-yard Cehrs touchdown run on their next possession, and they also scored on the one to follow on a 37-yard touchdown grab by Zamora to make it 42-7 at halftime.
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Brennon Leach scored on a 1-yard touchdown run after a bad punt snap for Redmond set up the West offense for an easy score.
The Bulldogs’ Seth Jackson intercepted a pass that gave his team a short field. Daniel Luttrell scored on a 14-yard run with 8:43 left to finish West’s scoring and initiate a running clock due to the 45-point rule.
Redmond scored a touchdown with about three minutes remaining.
“It was a team effort. We liked our matchup on defense. A lot of guys stepped up on defense,” Mehl said. “We played a lot of guys. Really proud of the collective group effort, for sure.”
The coach added that getting younger, less-experienced varsity players on the field “pays dividends” down the road.
“Some of those sophomores, playoff football is always different, and for them to get that experience at the playoff level is crucial,” he said.
Cehrs didn’t get a carry in last week’s 28-21 win at Silverton that clinched the conference title for the Bulldogs and ensured West would be at home in the first two rounds of the state playoffs. Phillips had 228 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 attempts.
Mehl said the team had confidence in Cehrs before the season started.
“We think he’s really good. We know we’re really blessed with two guys in the backfield that we think are some of the best around,” Mehl said. “He really ran well tonight. He ran behind his pads. He hasn’t gotten a lot of carries late in the year. Some of that is a product of things he can’t control. He was ready for this moment tonight and I think it showed.”
Van Dyke was 12-of-17 passing for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Zamora had two catches for 78 yards, while Bowers, Wolfe and Cole Schaffner each had three receptions.
Luttrell had 26 yards and Leach 11 rushing in reserve.
Carter was 3-of-15 passing for 88 yards, with 80 of that coming on one play. Teammate Colt Folston had 14 carries for 98 yards.