Alek Russell
Philomath senior Alek Russell catches a 20-yard pass for the team’s only touchdown on Friday night against Dayton. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

In two of the football team’s four on-the-field victories this season, Philomath blew out the opponent — 52-0 in the season opener at Valley Catholic and 35-0 five weeks later at Willamina. Those types of games provide certain types of benefits, such as working on offensive or defensive schemes or getting younger players some game experience.


The close games against quality competition provide the most fun, although it’s true that wins feel a whole lot better than losses. The Warriors had one of those games on Friday night with Dayton visiting Clemens Field.

“It was a battle — a lot of good guys over there, a lot of good guys on our team,” said senior Alek Russell, who scored Philomath’s only touchdown on Friday night in a 9-7 loss to the Pirates. “Everybody fought hard on both sides of the ball.”

Coach Alex Firth saw his PHS team lose for the first time in back-to-back weeks. Amity had Philomath’s number two weeks ago.

“Those are the games you want to play … playing a quality opponent and taking them down to the wire,” Firth said. “That’s who we want to be and that’s who we want to play. It is what it is but it was a heck of a game against a good football team.”

The pregame hype was high with a homecoming atmosphere combined with Senior Night recognition. But Russell said when the festivities had ended, players were focused on the task at hand.

“I know every single one of my teammates — they were ready for tonight, they were ready to work hard,” Russell said. “They knew what was at stake and I think every single one of them played their heart out, you could see that.”

What was at stake was positioning for the 3A state playoffs. Dayton, Amity and Philomath have been fighting for the top two spots, which earn automatic berths in the 16-team playoff. Despite the loss, the Warriors will very likely still make the playoff field as one of two at-large teams.

Philomath (5-3 overall, 2-2 league) had several scoring opportunities slip away to add an extra layer of frustration with the evening.

Isaac Lattin
PHS senior Isaac Lattin looks for running room on a kickoff return. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

“We got some good protection and had some time and the passing game started to click for us,” Firth said. “The running game, we’d hit and miss. We had some untimely penalties or just a mistake. Basically, I think it came down to which team made fewer mistakes and unfortunately it wasn’t us.”

The Warriors opened the game with an 11-play drive that chewed up half of the first quarter and reached the Dayton 21. When things stalled and the Pirates took over possession on downs, Philomath’s defense came up big with a three-and-out.

The Warriors looked like they might be in for a good night.

However, history kept repeating itself with each possession. On Philomath’s second drive, the team picked up a couple of first downs and got down to the Dayton 10. But a holding penalty — which curiously was flagged 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage — and two straight quarterback sacks landed the Warriors in a fourth-and-47.

Dayton’s offense did put together a threatening drive on its next possession while taking a lot of time off the clock. The Pirates ran the ball 17 straight times from their own 18 to the Philomath 1. On fourth-and-goal, Dayton’s quarterback fumbled and although he recovered, the Warriors took possession on downs.

Dayton also threatened on its third and final possession of the first half. The Pirates had held Philomath on a three-and-out on the previous set of plays and used their timeouts strategically to give themselves 1 minute, 12 seconds to make something happen.

Getting down to the 10-yard line, Dayton opted to attempt a field goal on second down. But the ball was snapped over the holder and bounced downfield to the 35. Interestingly, the Pirates recovered but the officials awarded possession to Philomath with 1 second remaining in the half.

The game appeared to be shaping up as a repeat to what happened between the two schools during the spring 2021 season. Playing at Dayton, the Warriors were able to post a 7-0 win in that one.

Dayton received the kickoff to begin the third quarter and was able to put points on the board to cap a 12-play drive that reached the Philomath 7 and ended with a 24-yard field goal by Nate Arce. A roughing the passer penalty with Dayton throwing an incomplete pass on third-and-8 helped the Pirates keep the drive alive.

Philomath then had its best possession of the night. On the first play, Caleb Jensen completed a 27-yard pass to Isaac Lattin to get the ball down to the Dayton 41. Later on a third-and-8, Jensen and Lattin connected for 19 yards to move the chains.

On third-10 at the 20, Jensen found Russell open on the double slant for a touchdown with 1:57 left in the third quarter. Philomath overcame illegal shift, holding and false start penalties on the possession to score the TD.

“They were overplaying the inside and we had them run a seam route, so he was just wide open up the seam,” Firth said.

Said Russell, “Everybody did their job and everything worked out. Caleb had time to make the perfect throw right there to me. Everything just fell into place, it was a cool moment.”

Student Section, Cheer
The PHS cheer squad and student section show their support for the football team. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

After the two teams traded possessions, Dayton put together a successful drive in the fourth. The big play came on a 34-yard pass from Boston Hodges down the right sideline to a wide-open Ryan Bates, who rambled down to the 1. Zach Smith scored on the next play to put the Pirates up 9-7, the extra point kick failing.

Just over 6 minutes remained in the game to give Philomath plenty of time to come up with a response. Jensen and David Griffith both had runs to move the chains but the drive stalled even though the Pirates got flagged for a facemask penalty. After three straight incompletions, Dayton took over possession and ran the clock down to 26 seconds.

The Warriors got the ball back at their own 22-yard line and had little time. But with Lattin’s leg, Philomath just needed to get in field goal range for a shot at the win. An incomplete pass and a reception that picked up just three yards followed, the latter eating up valuable time off the clock. With 1 second left, Jensen completed a pass to Ty May but Dayton made the tackle for the win.

“We were desperately trying to get into field goal range there at the end,” Firth said. “We just couldn’t do it. If we were getting anywhere close from 30 in, we were going to kick a field goal.”

Neither team produced more than 200 yards of total offense. The Pirates were most effective on the ground with 134 yards rushing while Philomath had most of its success through the air with 124 yards passing. Jensen completed 8 of 16 passes and one touchdown. Lattin had three catches for 62 yards. Russell and Warwick Bushnell each had two catches.

For the Pirates, Arce had 90 yards rushing and three catches for 23 yards. Hodges completed 4 of 6 passes for 57 yards.

Dayton (7-1, 4-0) and Amity (5-3, 4-0) will play Oct. 29 with the winner taking the league title and the loser settling for the second automatic berth to the state playoffs.

Philomath’s regular season has ended for the varsity. The Warriors are scheduled to play Taft on Friday, but the opponent forfeited because of a lack of experience. The Taft roster shows just one senior and 17 freshmen and sophomores.

Taft has agreed to play Philomath’s junior varsity at the same time and place — 7 p.m. Friday at Clemens Field. The Warriors haven’t been able to play a JV schedule this season, so the game will give inexperienced players some needed time on the gridiron.

With the forfeit applied next week, Philomath’s record will end up at 6-3 overall, 3-2 in league play. The Warriors will then await word on where they will go for the state playoffs.

Mason Stearns, Alex Firth
Coach Alex Firth stands next to Mason Stearns before Friday night’s game at Clemens Field. Firth and other coaches wore No. 12 as a symbol of solidarity in support of Stearns, who has been battling a bone marrow infection this fall. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Coaches wore jerseys with No. 12 and “Stearns” on the back to show support for Mason Stearns, a sophomore who was an impact player early this season but has been dealing with health challenges.

Firth said they wore them “just to show that we’re thinking about him. He’s part of the team and he’s had a tough go the past six weeks or so. I’m sure he’d love to be out here but he’s got to get his health back.”

Stearns, who was at the game Friday on crutches, was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, or a bone marrow infection, in his femur. He hopes to be back in athletics by this spring in time for baseball season.

The team recognized eight seniors before kickoff — Joseph Choi, Jensen, Lattin, Blake Niemann, Jayden Rockey, Russell, Tyler Tally and Jacob Williams.

Dayton 9, Philomath 7
Friday, Oct. 22, at Clemens Field, Philomath HS

Dayton (7-1, 4-0)00369
Philomath (5-3, 2-2)00707
Third Quarter

FG 6:17
Nate Arce 24 yards FG
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
TD 1:57
Alek Russell 20 pass from Caleb Jensen (Isaac Lattin kick)


Fourth Quarter
DAYTD 6:09
Zach Smith 1 run (kick failed)
First Downs1511
>> Third-Down Efficiency6-126-11
>> Fourth-Down Efficiency1-20-2
Total Yards191170
>> Comp-Att-Int4-6-08-16-0
>> Yards Per Pass9.57.8
>> Rushing Attempts4629
>> Yards Per Attempt2.91.6
All-Purpose Yards5041
>> Punt Returns2-160-0
>> Kickoff Returns2-344-41
>> Interception Returns0-00-0
>> Offensive3-156-40
>> Defensive3-254-28
>> Special Teams0-01-5
>> Fumbles-Lost2-02-0
>> Interceptions Thrown00
Sacked-Yards Lost1-83-28
Time of Possession25:0822:52
>> First Half11:5612:04
>> Second Half13:1210:48
Dayton: Nate Arce 17-90, Zach Smith 20-57, Justin deSmet 6-27, Boston Hodges 2-(-10), Team 1-(-30).
Philomath: David Griffith 18-36, Caleb Jensen 10-7, Jacob Williams 1-3.
Dayton: Boston Hodges 4-6-0-57.
Philomath: Caleb Jensen 8-16-0-124.
Nate Arce 3-23, Ryan Bates 1-34.
Philomath: Isaac Lattin 3-62, Alek Russell 2-31, Warwick Bushnell 2-13, Ty May 1-18.

Conference Standings
(As of Oct. 22)

Special District 1 — SouthConfAllPFPA

Friday, Oct. 22
Dayton 9, Philomath 7
Amity 36, Willamina 0
Scio 36, Taft 8
Friday, Oct. 29
Dayton at Amity, 7 p.m.
Willamina at Scio, 7 p.m.
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