Vale finds strength in returning players

Despite a thin veil of smoke lingering over Vale during practice, the Viking grid squad is preparing hard for the season. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

VALE – The sounds of pads colliding and quarterbacks calling cadence filled the smoky air at Vale High School’s football practice area, as another high school football season is set to kick off.

Vale made it to the quarterfinal round of the 3A state playoffs last year and totaled seven victories. The Vikings expect to be strong again in 2018 as part of the Eastern Oregon League.

“I expect this season to be successful,” said Coach Jeff Aldred. “We’ve got to figure out our offensive identity a little, but we do have a lot of returning players.”

The Vikings will enter this season with seven returning players on defense and six players on offense. The team will feature a “new quarterback and some new offensive linemen,” said Aldred.

Colton Kesey, who played receiver a year ago, will enter as a junior and the team’s starting quarterback. Meanwhile, senior receiver and defensive back Tanner Hamilton leads the returnees for the Vikings squad. Hamilton is set to be the team’s top player, according to Aldred.

“We have a tough schedule this year,” said Aldred. “We think Nyssa is going to be a key game. It’s always a big game.”

Among the four other schools in the Eastern Oregon League, Aldred expects that the toughest games will be against Nyssa and Burns. 

While the Nyssa Bulldogs have been regarded as Vale’s longtime rival, Aldred said “Burns could be considered a rival as well.”

The Vikings began football practice Aug. 13. Although a thin veil of smoke lingered in the area, Aldred said the team hasn’t had to make any adjustments.

“So far this year, we haven’t had problems yet,” said Aldred, who checks the heat index and air quality before every practice. “Sometimes the smoke doesn’t settle in this area as bad as other places.”

Several schools in the area will kick off the season with jamborees this week, but the Vikings won’t be participating. The decision was made by Aldred, who “didn’t see value in it anymore” after participating in jamboree events “in the past three years in a row.”

Vale opens the season at home against Parma High School on Friday, Aug. 31. The first league game is Oct. 5 in Nyssa.

Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.