LYNDEN - The bulls thrashed within the bucking shoots, prefacing a night in which they, at least in the championship round, would prove mightier than those brave enough to ride them.
Dakota Louis did just enough in his final ride of the first round to claim at least a marginal lead going into the second day of the Lynden Professional Bull Riding competition. Louis' score of 91 in the opening round on Friday, April 4, at the Washington Tractor Arena at the Northwest Washington Fair Grounds in Lynden gives him a slight four-point edge over Dalton Davis, who also was bucked off in the championship round.
"I wish I could have gotten that last bull rode," Louis said. "That's where you win the most money when you ride that second one. Hopefully I just carry over the confidence for tomorrow and ride my bulls."
The second day of competition will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5.
Louis, who rode twice in the first round, was bucked off Crowns Legend in his first attempt, but as he made his way onto Rocky for the final run in the first round, he said he saw a lot of the hard work he's put in this season come to fruition.
"I guess the first one woke me up more and made me try harder for the second one," he said. "I just drew a nice bull in the second one. In this sport, the more work you put in, the more you get out, and lately I've been trying my best."
Unfortunately, he couldn't translate early success into the championship round where he had the opportunity to distance himself from the previous nine riders who had all failed to mount their bull for eight seconds.
His bull, Devil in Disguise, had him off well before the buzzer sounded, showing the strength of Pacific Northwest bulls, he said.
"He kicked out and came around to the right and had me bowed over the front," he said. "I never could really get that back up and gradually he worked me to the outside and threw me off."
That was much the same story for the other nine competitors who qualified for the finals.
The 19-year-old Davis from Yakima was the first-round leader after riding Poison Control to the tune of 87 points before Louis bested him. Davis was bucked off Buck Nasty in the finals, and while grimacing in pain, he made his way off the arena under his own power.
Stetson Lawrence, who entered the championship round third after scoring 83.5 on Medicine Rope in the first round, looked to have a solid run on Wild Eyes in the finals, but it was to no avail.
"I was disgusted with myself. I should have rode him. I just second-guessed him and made a move before him," Lawrence said. "The bull came out, jumped out, turned left, and I thought he was going to stay into the left side, so I leaned over and he jumped ahead and went back to the right."
In his successful ride, he called the bull "one you want to have every time," but made note of the importance of staying atop his bulls tomorrow to continue to edge higher in the Professional Bull Riding rankings.
Louis offered very much the same endorsement for Saturday's competition, adding that the quality of riders and the quality of bulls in the PBR has never been higher.
Cody Hudson finished fourth with a score of 83 after riding Spike. Zac Peterson (81), Clint Johnson (76), A.J. Hamre (71) and Keith Roquemore (69) rounded out the rest of the riders that stayed atop their bulls in the first round.
Hometown Lynden riders Allen Helmuth and Colby Reilly didn't make it beyond the first round after being bucked off their respective bulls, Chop Saw and Macho Man. Helmuth suffered what looked to be a very serious injury after the bull's hind legs came down on his chest area. He struggled to make his way off the arena floor, but later news came that he was OK, albeit he did suffer an injury that was not specified.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.