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Late interception leads to touchdown to seal victory against the visiting Riverhawks

PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn senior defensive back Jaime Tlatenchi celebrates on the sideline after picking off a pass with under two minutes left in Friday's game against The Dalles, leading to a late touchdown that sealed the Bulldogs' 14-6 victory over the Riverhawks.
On a night in which the Woodburn offense just wasn't getting it done, it fell to the Bulldogs' defense to take over and deliver a victory in the team's 14-6 victory over the visiting Riverhawks from The Dalles.

It was a game of evenly matched opposing independent 5A teams at Dale Yuranek Field on Friday. Woodburn came in looking to snap a streak of three straight losses since their first win of the season, while The Dalles was hoping to finish the season strong after three consecutive losses spoiled the taste of a 3-0 start.

Both programs had trouble finding a consistent offensive rhythm during the contest, but the Bulldogs made sure to strike first at the tail end of the first quarter when Hunter Conlon connected with senior Ruben Alvarez for a 34-yard touchdown up the left side of the field to put the team up 7-0.

From there the Bulldog offense was held silent for the majority of the game, having difficulty stringing big plays together by a combination of penalties, broken plays and the Riverhawk defense.

"They had some glimpses of really good stuff, but it was kind of slow," Woodburn coach Nick Federico said. "They just have to put together those drives. If they can put together a complete game, they can be very, very good."

Fortunately, the Bulldogs' defense was up to task at nearly every opportunity, driving The Dalles backward, forcing turnovers and creating chaos in the Riverhawk backfield.

PHIL HAWKINS - The Woodburn defense came up with three turnovers and gave up a season-low six points in the team's Friday night victory over The Dalles Riverhawks.
"We feed off the energy of the defense," senior Joey Garza said. "Even though we didn't get it done mid-game, we still got the win."

The Dalles kept things close, though, when quarterback Gabe Helseth hit his fullback for a short pass in the middle that turned into a 63-yard touchdown with 4:21 left in the quarterback. But the Bulldog defense made up for it on the two-point conversion attempt when Josh Cribbins picked off Helseth in the end zone to make sure Woodburn maintained a 7-6 lead.

The Woodburn offense came up empty again on its next drive, turning the ball over to the Riverhawks on their own 37-yard line, but the defense continued to deliver, sacking Helseth and jarring the ball loose for a fumble recovered by Woodburn senior Onasis Fuentes.

After the halftime break, Cribbins answered again with his second interception, this time on the Bulldogs' 10-yard line that denied a touchdown attempt by the Riverhawks.

"I've never seen our defense like this," Woodburn running back Luis Guerrero said. "We were shooting ourselves in the foot, but in the end, the defense kept pushing us."

PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn freshman Jackson Pickett flushes The Dalles quarterback Gabe Helseth out of the pocket in the Bulldogs' 14-6 victory over the Riverhawks.On the next drive, it was junior Ronnie Mathis' turn to make a play, picking off Helseth's deep pass attempt at the end of the third quarter. But the turnover was reversed due to a roughing the passer penalty, and The Dalles recovered to drive the length of the field.

The Riverhawks took advantage of the second chance later in the drive, finding an open receiver in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown to take the lead with 10:33 left in the game. But a holding penalty negated the touchdown, and Woodburn went on to force a turnover on downs to maintain their one-point lead.

After the two teams battled back-and-forth in the quarter, the Bulldog defense put the nail in the coffin as the Riverhawks were attempting one final drive. With 1:53 left in the game, Woodburn senior Jaime Tlatenchi jumped in front of Helseth's pass, picking it off and running down the sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the eight-yard line.

Two plays later, the Bulldogs handed the ball off to junior Chandler Vargas, who zipped around the outside and into the end zone to seal win and put another notch in the victory column for Woodburn.

PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn defensive back Jesus Gonzalez pursues The Dalles' Gabe Helseth in a 14-6 winning effort over the Riverhawks on Friday."Defense really steps it up a lot, and that's good for us on offense to set up the score," Vargas said. "We shot ourselves in the foot a lot, but we got it done."

For the Woodburn coaching staff, it was an opportunity for the Bulldog defense to play meaningful minutes late in the game. In five of the team's six losses this season, Woodburn has trailed by more than 30 points at the end of the game. The win against The Dalles allowed the Bulldog defense to step up in a game where result hung in the balance all the way up until the final buzzer.

"When you aren't in that situation, you can't be ready for that situation, so you have to take advantage when you are," Federico said. "They did a very good job of that and they answered."

Woodburn (2-5) closes out the season at Molalla (3-4, 2-2 Tri-Valley) next week and home against No. 5 Silverton (5-2, 3-2 Mid-Willamette) on Oct. 27 in their last two independent games before the program drops down to the 4A Classification next year.

"The next two weeks will be fitting to the two years these seniors have given us," Federico said. "They've given us everything knowing that it's independent. And I've been very proud, because that's tough to do. Whatever they do in the next two weeks propels us into the next conference that we're in."

Phil Hawkins can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn running back Luis Guerrero holds onto the ball as a Riverhawk defender attempts to punch it loose as the Bulldogs held on to win 14-6 and snap a three-game losing streak.

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