It’s another big game this week for the Sutherlin Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs (5-2, 2-1 Special District 2 North), who won on the road last week with a 26-23 upset of Santiam Christian, host Pleasant Hill (3-4, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in a league counter.
Sutherlin, Pleasant Hill and Santiam Christian (5-2, 2-1) are tied for second place in District 2 North, trailing Harrisburg (6-1, 3-0). The top three teams receive automatic berths for the Class 3A playoffs.
The Bulldogs are on the verge of earning their first playoff berth since 2009, when they competed in 4A.
The Billies have won two straight in league, but those came over the bottom two teams — La Pine and Siuslaw. Pleasant Hill has struggled defensively, allowing 33.1 points a game.
The two teams last met in 2009, with the Billies winning 53-38 in Pleasant Hill.
“It’s a must-win game,” said Josh Gary, in his second stint as the Bulldogs’ head coach. “Pleasant Hill is better than its record indicates. They love to throw the ball deep and have a talented left-handed quarterback (in senior Zachary Hart). We’ve got to get a good start, control the line of scrimmage and limit big plays (defensively).”
Sutherlin has been good on the defensive side, giving up 16.6 points a game. Offensively, the Bulldogs are averaging 19.3 points.
“We’re not as explosive as I’d like us to be offensively,” Gary said. “We haven’t put together a four-quarter game yet. We don’t have a dominant running back, although Jake Merrifield has done a good job.”
Merrifield leads the team in rushing with 491 yards and has six touchdowns. Cade Meisner has passed for 531 yards and five TDs. First-year player Mason Gill has aided the passing game, averaging 36 yards per catch. He had an 83-yard scoring reception versus Santiam Christian.
Gary said end J.R. Bailey and linebacker Will Singleton had strong defensive games last week.
In other Week 8 games involving Douglas County 3A and 2A squads:
ST. MARY’S (5-2, 3-0 Special District 2 South) AT SOUTH UMPQUA (2-5, 0-3) — The Crusaders of Medford, who share the league lead with Cascade Christian (6-1, 3-0), take on the Lancers at Kent Wigle Stadium.
South Umpqua is looking to end a four-game losing streak. The Lancers lost 34-14 to Hidden Valley last week at home, giving up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
DOUGLAS (0-7, 0-3 SD2S) AT HIDDEN VALLEY (4-3, 1-2) — The Trojans will be seeking their first win of the season when they visit the Mustangs of Murphy.
Douglas lost 52-0 to Cascade Christian in Medford last week, finishing with minus 1-yard total offense. The Trojans have been outscored 252-64 this season.
CENTRAL LINN (4-2, 1-2 Special District 3) AT OAKLAND (1-6, 1-2) — The 2A Oakers hope to get their offense warmed up when they host the Cobras of Halsey at Eddy Field.
Oakland, which lost 44-0 at Monroe last week, averages 9 points a game. Corbin Picknell led the Oakers with 56 yards rushing against the Dragons, who are No. 2 in the OSAAtoday 2A coaches’ poll.
“Offensively, we’re not very strong and it starts with the line,” said Oakland coach Ben Lane. “We need to be able to block the perimeter (against Central Linn) and hit the perimeter with the pass.”
Lane added the Cobras are an athletic team with speed. C.L. averages 31.9 points a game.
GLIDE (5-2, 2-1 Special District 5) AT TOLEDO (4-3, 2-1 SD4) — The Wildcats, coming off a disappointing 35-8 league loss to Lost River at home, take on the Boomers in a nonleague contest.
Toledo will test a Glide defense that’s only allowing 11.4 points a game — second in 2A. The Boomers average 38.7 points and allow 34.1.
"They throw the ball a ton," said Glide coach Jody Doty.
Quarterback Caidyn Cunningham, who missed last week’s game due to a school suspension, will be back in the lineup Friday. Running backs Zach Holland (ankle) and Gio Allison (broken thumb) are out.
"We're pretty banged up," Doty said. "We've been trying to get some young kids some varsity reps (in practice)."
BANDON (4-3, 1-1 SD4) AT REEDSPORT (2-5, 0-3) — The Brave are looking to snap a three-game losing skid against the Tigers at home.
Reedsport nearly rallied from a 20-point deficit at Gold Beach last week, but lost 34-26. Quarterback Nick Glover had two touchdown passes — both to Dallas McGill — and added a scoring run in the loss.