Vale Football Falls In Defensive Battle, Looks Ahead

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SILVERTON – The Kennedy Trojans made the decision to forgo the 2A 9-man football this season and play up to the 3A 11-man league. Rolling with a roster that included 15 seniors, the Trojans put up a 10-0 perfect record and outscored their opponents 388-55. Prior to meeting the Vikings of Vale on Saturday, Nov. 12, Kennedy’s closest game was a 24-20 victory over Santiam Christian in late October.

In a quarterfinal battle that saw a total of 362 total yards of offense split between the two squads, Kennedy escaped with a 14-12 win after an interception on a two-point conversion with 31 seconds left in the game killed Vale’s chances for an overtime chance at a victory.

This was a game of bone rattling hits, plays on both sides measured in negative yards and a last drive ending in heart break for the Viks. For fans of defense, this was a game to watch. For fans of offense, there was little to see.

The first quarter saw nothing but short runs, three punts, a quarterback sack and two incomplete passes. As the clock hit zero, the score stood at 0-0.

The Vikings had the first chance to place points on the board early in the second quarter. Starting on their own 27-yard line, Vale used the clock and 14 plays to drive down the field before a incomplete pass on a third and goal stopped the drive. The Viks, in an unexpected move to all but the coaching staff, attempted a field goal that was blocked by a group of large Kennedy lineman.

The Trojans then started their own drive, but an interception and a 40-yard return by Vale’s Brooks Haueter set Vale up on the Kennedy 37. Using six plays, Vale turned to a bit of trickery as Colten Stepleton pitched the ball back to Eli Aldred for the 7-yard pass to Haueter for the first points to go on the scoreboard.

Close football games are typically decided by two or three plays, two or three calls by either the officials or a coach. On the point after attempt following Haueter’s touchdown, the kick for the single point sailed through the uprights, but Kennedy was called offside. Vale accepted the penalty, moving the ball half the distance to the goal line. Coach Jeff Aldred made the decision to go for a two-point conversion. The Kennedy defense stopped the short run and as the half came to a close, Vale held a 6-0 lead.

Kennedy was on the board after the first possession of the second half. Taking the ball on their own 35-yard line, the Trojans capped off an eight-play drive with a 28-yard pass play from Elijah Traeger to Brett Boen for his only catch of the day, but the first score for Kennedy. With the point after kick successful, Kennedy led 7-6.

Late in the third quarter, Kennedy was again on the move after starting on the Vale 25-yard line. Finding some success in the running game on the drive, Traeger dove in from the Viking’s two-yard line to up the score to 14-6.

Late in the game, Kennedy was forced to start a drive from their own one-yard line. Unable to move the ball, the Trojan punt handed the ball back to the Vikings on the Kennedy 44-yard line with 2 minutes, 14 seconds showing on the clock. Two incomplete passes appeared to doom the Vikings, but a defensive holding penalty breathed new life into Vale and with 31 seconds left in the game, Stepleton kept the ball for a quarterback keeper and a Viking score. The all important two-point conversion to knot up the score was intercepted by Kennedy to secure the Trojans advance to the semifinals after the Trojans recovered Vale’s attempt at an onside kick.

“Kennedy definitely had the size advantage in this game,” said Aldred speaking of a Kennedy roster that includes nine players over 200 pounds including two lineman tipping the scales over 300 pounds. “We knew we could not abandon our game plan. Some plays worked, some did not. Kennedy has the most athletic secondary we have seen all year.”

Vale ended the game with 180 yards of offense versus a stout Kennedy defense. Running against the Trojans was tough as the Vikings carried the ball 35 times for only 84 yards led by Stepleton’s quarterback position of 33 yards on eight carries. Kase Schaffeld ended with nine carries for 26 yards and Eli Aldred ended his high school career with 18 carries for 25 yards.

Stepleton ended the day 5-for-16 for 72 yards and no interceptions. Haueter had three catches for 35 yards and Charlie Lamb finished with two catches for 30 yards against the Trojans secondary.

The Vale defense held Kennedy to the Trojans’ lowest point total of the year and only 182 yards of total offense. Javier Rodriguez led the Kennedy ground game with nine carries for 62 yards while William Schaecher had 15 carries for 63 yards. Traeger was 4-for-8 passing for only 54 yards and the Haueter interception.

The Vale loss marks the end to Viking seniors Trace Marks, Lamb, Aldred, Will Friend, Steven Colyer, Trevor Bates, Eli Mendieta, David Chudleigh and Owen Crane.

For Coach Aldred, the year did not end as planned, but the outlook for next season is bright.

“We basically have our whole line returning and the skill positions will have experience also coming back,” said Aldred. “Compared to other teams in the league and around the state, we were young this year. The Vikings look great in depth and experience next season and we can’t wait to get back on the field this summer. We will miss our seniors leaving and we will need some kids to step up and fill some slots, but overall, Vale will be strong next fall.”

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