WALLA WALLA - Defense was the theme for the DeSales homecoming at Ty Baffney Field Friday in Southeast 2B football action.
But it was late offense which defined the Irish's 15-14 victory over Dayton.
Dayton marched 68 yards in seven plays as Isaiah Lambert ran the final three yards, Colton Bickelhaupt hit Joey Schlachter in the end zone for the 2-point conversion, and the Bulldogs took a 14-8 lead with 5:41 left in the game.
"We scored too quick," Dayton coach Dean Bickelhaupt said of the score.
The Irish went on their second sustained drive of the night on the ensuing possession. DeSales overcame a 15-yard personal foul penalty, got 60 rushing yards on five carries from Luke Fazzari, and cashed in on a 20-yard scoring pass from Jeremiah Cox to Joe Duehn to cap a 75-yard march and draw even at 14-14 with 3:23 to play. Arturo Martinez nailed the extra point and the Irish held on for a 15-14 win.
"DeSales played some tough football," coach Bickelhaupt said. "They executed well and, at the end, they really did (execute well)."
The Bulldogs forced two turnovers in the first period. Bickelhaupt picked off a Cox pass at his own 33 to end the first Irish drive.
A 19-yard completion to Wyatt Frame highlighted the Bulldog possession as Dayton marched to fourth-and-2 at the Irish 40, but came up a yard short.
DeSales gave it back as Schlachter fell on an Irish fumble at the Irish 32, and the Bulldogs capitalized.
Nick Wales dropped Lowden Smith for a two-yard loss, but Bickelhaupt hit Frame for 31 yards and a first down at the Irish 3. Two plays later, Frame took it in from the 1, but the PAT went wide, and Dayton led 6-0 after one period.
"We had two big turnovers in the first quarter," Irish coach Pat Graham said. "That gave them momentum and got them up on the board early."
The Bulldogs ended their first possession of the second period with a punt - one of five for Dayton on the night as both teams combined for 10 punts - and the Irish, after a block-in-the-back penalty, started from their own 10.
A Fazzari 23-yard run, and completions of 13 and six yards to Darryl Galloway, sparked a march to the Bulldog 38.
Fazzari finished with four consecutive carries, the last one around the left edge for a seven-yard touchdown.
Dayton was flagged for two offsides on the PAT, and DeSales opted out of the kick and went for 2 from inside the 1. Cox hit Duehn and the Irish went to intermission up 8-6.
"I was proud of the offensive line," Graham said of the drive. "They did a great job all night. It was a very physical game. They were able to meet their (Dayton's) level of physicality and Luke Fazzari ran the ball hard. He's a hard guy to tackle."
The third period was a standoff. Andrew Elmenhurst punted three times for the Irish and Frame punted twice for the Bulldogs.
Kroft Sunderland (6-foot-2, 262 pounds) led the Bulldog defense with four stops for loss in the quarter.
"Sunderland is a good football player," Irish offensive lineman Mat Zimmerman said. "He definitely was a key on their defense."
The Bulldogs began their second fourth-quarter possession at their own 35. Bickelhaupt hit Frame - who finished with five catches for 114 yards - for 35 yards, and the Bulldogs used a halfback pass from Hayden Fullerton back to Bickelhaupt for 19 to move to a first down at the Irish 11.
Lambert ran for seven, Bickelhaupt ran for one, Bickelhaupt threw incomplete and the Bulldogs were fourth-and-2 at the Irish 3 with 5:46 remaining in the game.
Lambert followed an escort around left end for the go-ahead touchdown.
Sunderland injured an ankle on the play and did not return.
Bickelhaupt hit Schlachter for the conversion and the 14-8 lead with 5:41 to play.
"I felt a good vibe after they scored," Graham said. "We (the coaches) said, ‘We're going down there and score.' The kids responded. I love how we finished."
With Sunderland missing, Fazzari, who ran for 216 yards on 32 carries, carried for three consecutive first downs on runs of 27, 13 and 12 yards to move the Irish to a first down at the Bulldog 23.
A hurdling penalty on Fazzari moved the Irish back to the 31, but Cox scrambled for 10.
Fazzari was dropped by Garett Turner for a gain of one, but on third down, Cox and Duehn teamed up for the score and Martinez put the Irish up for good at 15-14 with 3:23 to play.
"We focused on running the ball," Zimmerman said of the decisive drive. "It hurt them when he (Sunderland) was out, but it allowed us to push on. We were able to keep chugging along and get the first downs. Joe (Duehn) ran a nice route and Jeremiah (Cox) had a great ball."
"We didn't have our big guy back there," coach Bickelhaupt said. "He's a lot to our defense."
Bickelhaupt returned the Irish kickoff 21 yards to his own 42 as Dayton had one last shot with 3:18 left.
On the Bulldogs' second play, Galloway stepped in front of Frame on a pass down the middle and the Irish had the ball and the game with 2:27 to go.
"I knew it was going to go down to the wire," coach Bickelhaupt said. "I just told the kids, ‘We're two points (a 7-6 loss to Waitsburg-Prescott and Friday's 15-14 loss to the Irish) away from being league champs. We need to step up and get the win next week (at Asotin) and see where it takes us."
The Irish defense limited Dayton to 57 rushing yards and 220 yards of total offense.
"Our defensive line did great," Irish defensive lineman Zimmerman said. "We did a good job of stopping the run. Our linebackers and everybody on defense did their jobs."
The Bulldog defense limited the Irish to 58 passing yards.
"Coach Bickelhaupt does a tremendous job," Graham said. "Sunderland is able to put some pressure on your quarterback and make him feel that rush. But their secondary did an excellent job (also). They have a very good defense. They are very physical and very stingy."
Dayton drops to 2-2 and plays at Asotin (a 48-20 loser to Waitsburg-Prescott Friday in Waitsburg) on Friday for the No. 3 seed into the crossover with the Bi-County League on Nov. 4.
DeSales improves to 3-1 and clinches the No. 2 SE2B seed into the Nov. 4 crossover with the No. 3 seed from the Bi-County League. The Irish close out the SE2B season at home Friday when Tri-Cities Prep visits.
"I'm not happy with the penalties, not happy with the turnovers," Graham said. "But, our kids made the big plays when we needed them, both offensively and defensively, to get the W."
DeSales 15, Dayton 14
Dayton 6 0 0 8 - 14
DeSales 0 8 0 7 - 15
Day - Frame 1 run (kick failed).
DeS - Fazzari 7 run (Duehn pass from Cox).
Day - Lambert 3 run (Schlachter pass from Bickelhaupt).
DeS - Duehn 20 pass from Cox (Martinez kick).
First downs 9 13
Rushes/yards 26-57 42-263
Passing yards 163 58
Passes (att-comp-int) 19-11-1 14-6-1
Punts 5-42.2 5-31.2
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 7-45 8-72
RUSHING - Day: Lambert 9-26, Fullerton 7-20, Bickelhaupt 6-15, Smith 1-(-2), Frame 2-0, Team 1-(-2); DeS: Fazzari 32-216, Wales 3-7, Cox 7-40.
PASSING - Day: Bickelhaupt 10-18-1, 144 yards, 0 TDs; Fullerton 1-1-0, 19 yards, 0 TDs; DeS: Cox 6-14-1, 58 yards, 1 TD.
RECEIVING - Day: Frame 5-114, Fullerton 3-20, Lambert 1-2, Turner 1-8, Bickelhaupt 1-19; DeS: Wales 1-2, Duehn 3-37-1, Galloway 2-19.