No one was surprised Anthony Nunn ran the ball as efficiently as he did Friday night, but it was the defense of the Sprague High School football team that made a statement.
The Olympians disrupted the passing game, took the ball away three times and forced West Salem to turn the ball over on downs three times in a 29-21 home Greater Valley Conference win.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Nunn rushed for 303 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries as Sprague won its biggest game of the year.
“And he’s a pretty good back, but he’s got some pretty good guys in front of him,” Sprague coach Jay Minyard said. “I thought really those guys in front, they played really well tonight.
“We’re kind of going to hang our hat on the running game, and then hopefully that opens stuff for us to do the play-action and (quarterback Justin Culpepper) had a great night tonight. He had a couple big play-action passes when we needed it.”
Sprague takes over sole possession of first place in the Greater Valley Conference at 5-0, but next plays Oct. 8 at South Salem (5-0, 4-0).
“It’s a big game to us,” said senior safety Sophann Oum, who intercepted two passes. “It’s definitely going to be an emotional game for us, but I think in the end, win or lose, we’re going to be a family and we’re going to stick to our game.”
West Salem (2-3, 2-2) loses its third consecutive game, the first time since 2004 that the team has lost three straight.
Sprague led 14-0 in the second quarter when Carter James caught a fourth-down 20-yard touchdown strike from Culpepper.
But West Salem’s Keonte McMurrin returned the ensuing kickoff 73 yards, and on the next play Manny Bravo ran up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown.
Bravo was spelling starter Kyle Terry – who rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries – and it was Bravo’s first touchdown of the year.
“He’s a good back,” West Salem coach Shawn Stanley said. “He’s a good player, plays a ton of defense. Kyle doesn’t play defense. Kyle runs so hard and so physically, we need to spell him once in a while so our plan was to play Manny every third series. We just need to continue to mix him in, but I thought at times we ran the ball well.”
Nunn rushed for his second touchdown of the half and the two-point conversion with 20 seconds left to put Sprague up 22-7 at halftime.
Culpepper hit Teagan Quintero for a 12-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend Sprague’s lead to 29-7.
West Salem scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Brody Wittman to Hunter Johnson to cut Sprague’s lead to 29-13 with 9:51 remaining.
Terry’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2:12 left to cut Sprague’s lead to 29-21, but Sprague’s Max Long recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Olympians ran out the clock.
Culpepper was an efficient 11 of 18 passing for 102 yards and two touchdowns for Sprague and completed four passes on third or fourth downs.
Sprague was able to disrupt West Salem’s passing game for most of the night and held Wittman to 12 of 27 passing for 146 yards.
“We have our two edge rushers, they’re really fast, we just wanted them to get a route and keep them in the pocket,” said senior linebacker David Prosser, who had a sack.
“We got Tegan Quitoriano, he’s a sophomore, and Spencer Nofziger, he’s a junior, so they were just able to get pressure and then our DB’s, all of them played really good and were able to make plays, break down passes. That just helped us out a lot.”
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