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VALE – The first round of state playoffs is always a bit uncertain. Sure, coaches receive film and speak with coaches from the other side of the state and look at the rankings, but there is always a hesitancy on welcoming a team not seen for four or five years.
With the Sutherlin Bulldogs in town on Saturday, Nov. 6, the Vale Vikings capitalized on multiple turnovers in the first half, placing the game into running clock in the third quarter and cruised to a 43-8 3A first round state championship win.
In an interview last week, Vale coach Jeff Aldred stressed the need to cut down turnovers, especially in the red zone for the Vikings. In Saturday’s game, it was the Viks causing the turnovers as Sutherlin lost the grip on the ball five times in the first half, losing three of those to Vale. The Vikings ended the game with a single fumble, subsequently recovered by Vale and a lone interception.
Sutherlin took the opening kick and started a march down the field, running five plays before the first fumble stopped the drive. On the turnover, Vale made quick use of the ball as Tanner Steele hit John Wolfe for an 18-yard pass play and score. With less than four minutes off the clock, the Vikings were up 6-0.
Ball control plagued the Bulldogs on their second possession as a fumbled snap was picked up by the Vikings. Vale was unable to capitalize and forced to punt. Sutherlin found life and started down the field, assisted by Viking penalties. The Bulldogs grabbed their first and only lead of the game off a 14-yard run by Enrique Diaz at the 2 minute, 58 second mark. With the extra point successful, Sutherlin led 8-6.
The lead for the Bulldogs was short lived, a mere 15 seconds. On the ensuing kickoff, Eli Aldred broke through the coverage for an 85-yard return and score. Vikings were back on top, 14-8.
The Vikings started the second quarter with a score as Steele took off on a quarterback scamper for a 19-yard run into the end zone. Vale was again on the scoreboard at the 7:14 mark in the second quarter as Peter McBride went around the left side for a 12-yard scoring run.
The Bulldogs appeared to come out in the second half ready to scrap. After a nine-play drive, the Sutherlin defense held the Vikings on the two-yard line. However, unable to move the ball offensively, Sutherline was forced to punt and saw Wolfe return the kick for a 52-yard score. That score also placed the game under the running clock rule, ending the matchup quickly.
“Our plan was just to go hard,” said junior Eli Aldred. “We knew they were prone to fumbling so we were always looking to knock the ball out.”
Both Aldred and Wolfe ended the game with two scores while Steele and McBride picked up one apiece. For the day, Steele was 3-for-10 for 124 yards. Relying on the run game, Nathan Kimball led the Vikings with 10 carries for 69 yards with Steele picking up 52 yards on four touches of the ball. Kase Shaffeld, playing in the second half, had eight carries for 37 yards.
The Viking defense held the Bulldogs to only 166 yards for the game. Diaz led the ground game with 44 yards on 11 carries.
“We are playing every game like this could be out last chance to be on the field,” said senior Jackson Schaffeld. “I am just glad to be out here with by friends and hitting the other team hard.”
The win propels Vale into the quarterfinals where they will meet Rainier, the second-ranked team in the state and a 34-6 winner over Nyssa/Harper on Friday, Nov. 5. The game is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, November 12th with no time set as of now. In addition, due to the condition of the field in Rainier, it is likely the matchup will be moved to Kelso, Washington on a turf surface.