After running the gauntlet previously in the playoffs, the Bellingham Bulldogs enjoyed smooth sailing in the Pacific Football League championship game.
Eric Taylor passed for 213 yards and four touchdowns as Bellingham captured the PFL title with a 40-7 rout of the South Lane County Buzzards of Springfield, Ore., before a sparse crowd Saturday night at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
The PFL North’s third seed entering the playoffs, the Bulldogs had registered road victories over second-seeded Yakima and the top-seeded Seattle Stallions to make it to the title contest. They had lost to the Portland Monarchs in last year’s championship game.
Considering the dominance of the PFL Northern Division this season (North teams had the league’s top four overall records), the lopsided nature of the game was no surprise.
Owning a 297-10 total offense advantage at the half, the Bulldogs could have won even more decisively except for their own mistakes. They committed four turnovers, incurred 144 yards in penalties, failed to score after taking points off the board when a field goal was accompanied by a defensive penalty and had a bad snap on another field goal result in a 31-yard loss.
Bellingham’s defense prevented those miscues from being more critical. Controlling the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs limited the Buzzards to three first downs (one by penalty) in the first three quarters.
Operating from the wildcat formation, Taylor completed 9 of his first 10 passes and also eluded tackles on several Russell Wilson-type scrambles.
He hooked up with Toby Seim on scoring passes of 23 and 4 yards in the first quarter, a 12-yard TD toss to Nicholas Gavigan in the second period and an 11-yard touchdown aerial to Douglas Miller in the fourth quarter.
Gavigan also caught a 39-yard TD pass from reserve quarterback Noah Cline in the fourth quarter.
A pivotal sequence late in the first half ended whatever suspense remained.
After linebacker Gary Doughty recovered a Bulldog fumble and quarterback Eric Rich hit Cameron Koeler for a 20-yard gain, the Buzzards — trailing 21-0 — were on the Bellingham 6-yard line in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the half. They fumbled, however, and Bellingham linebacker Stephen Faoro recovered.
Two plays later, running back Brett Hall burst up the middle for a 92-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs a 28-0 lead with 1:49 remaining in the half.
South Lane finally got on the scoreboard on Rich’s 2-yard TD pass to Zach Binx at the 10:06 mark of the fourth quarter.
The often-rancorous contest included 229 yards in penalties and ended with players on each side being ejected for flagrant fouls on the final two plays of the contest.
SL 0 0 0 7 — 7 Bell 14 14 0 12 — 40
First Downs: South Lane 7, Bellingham 16.
Net Rushing: South Lane minus 1, Bellingham 191.
Net Passing: South Lane 101, Bellingham 265
Passing: South Lane 12-25, Bellingham 16-29
Had Intercepted: South Lane 4, Bellingham 2
Fumbles Lost: South Lane 3, Bellingham 2.
Yards Penalized: South Lane 85, Bellingham 144.