Sailors have little luck against Irish in home opener

Mapleton senior JJ Neece dives into the end zone for a conversion in the first quarter against Waldport last week. (photo by Ned Hickson/Siuslaw News)

The Irish were in town last Thursday night (March 18) as Mapleton hosted Waldport for the Sailors’ first home football game this season. Though the Sailors played hard throughout and took an early lead, they unfortunately came up short as the Irish battled back to hand Mapleton a 74-34 loss.

Senior quarterback JJ Neece started strong, catching the opening kickoff and carrying it just beyond the 50-yard line for the return. They managed three first downs on the first four plays then, at 7:08, Neece took the ball up the middle for a touchdown.

He then swept outside for the 2-point conversion and a quick 8-0 Mapleton lead.

On its first possession, the Irish found themselves at third-and-4, when they connected on a short pass into the end zone. The Irish completed their conversion attempt, tying the game at 8-8 with 5:12 left in the first quarter.

Neece answered shortly after that, running more than 60 yards to the end zone with solid blocking from Ryan Bernhardt. The conversion put the Sailors back on top, 14-8.

On Waldport’s next possession, the Irish fumbled, with the quick hands of AJ Moso snatching up the recovery and giving the Sailors possession with 2:23 remaining in the quarter. Moso completed a handoff to Neece, who ran for a touchdown and a 20-8 Sailors lead.

Mapleton was on fire, but their tenacity was met by Waldport as the Irish came back less than 20 seconds later to score a touchdown from outside the 50-yard line. Despite an unsportsman-like conduct penalty called on the Irish after the play, they pulled within a touchdown of the Sailors, 20-14.

On the next play, the Sailors’ Jesse Hughes made a clutch catch, but the ball was fumbled and picked up by Waldport with 1:25 left in quarter. From there, the Irish ran for a touchdown to tie the game once again, 20-20.

Waldport picked up its second 15-yard penalty, this time on a late hit against Neece. Despite the penalties, Waldport continued to break conduct rules, include face-masking and late hits.

The quarter ended in a 20-20 stalemate, with the Irish demonstrating they would literally pull no punches on defense.

In the beginning of the second quarter, with Mapleton still on offense, Waldport intercepted a pass thrown by Neece and dropped it, but then recovered the ball.

The Irish then went on to score the first touchdown of the quarter at 9:42, taking their first lead of the game.

The Sailors had a hard time pushing up the field, although Moso and Neece both had solid runs. But with 6:34 before the half, Mapleton turned the ball back over to Waldport on downs.

Waldport was issued its second face-mask penalty, followed by a false start call against the Sailors. With its momentum shaken, Mapleton ended up relinquishing another touchdown to the Irish with 3:02 left in the half — with the conversion putting Waldport ahead 36-20.

Mapleton was back on offense and trying to find some traction. JJ Neece had a 14-yard gain with just over 2 minutes before the half. But two incomplete passes — and another false start penalty — took some of the wind out of their sails, leaving Mapleton trailing 36-20 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Waldport scored less than a minute into the second half to move ahead 44-20.

A fumble on Mapleton’s next possession led to another Waldport TD less than three minutes later, leaving the Sailors down 52-20.

From there, the Irish retained control of the game despite two more trips into the end zone for the Sailors.

Waldport went on to claim the win, 74-34.

Mapleton will be back on the gridiron this Friday, when the Sailors host Mohawk, beginning at 7 p.m.