The Vikings defeated No. 1 ranked Clatskanie Tigers, 20-14 last Saturday at Umatilla. Vale will face the Homedale Trojans next at an away game Friday, Sept. 28 at Homedale. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)
VALE – There isn’t a prime-time impact player on the Vale Vikings football squad.
There is no star that outshines his teammates week in and week out, no one player that fans or sports writers can point to as a consistent game-changer.
Instead, the 2018 Viking squad is blue collar down to its toes, and they perceive each grid contest much like the farmers and ranchers that populate Malheur County: As a job to do, with a minimum of fuss and a maximum amount of effort and care.
Saturday against the No. 1 ranked Clatskanie Tigers, the Vikings put on their work boots, donned their hats and grabbed their lunch boxes and put together three quarters of domination on the way to a 20-14 nonleague win.
“We are starting to figure ourselves out,” said Coach Jeff Aldred.
The Vikings collected 320 rushing yards for the game and built a 12-0 lead by halftime then held back a fierce Tiger rally in the final quarter to cement the win. Vale quarterback Colton Kesey finished the day 11 of 15, one interception and 124 yards, while Keegan Mizuta piled up 124 yards on 27 carries.
Mizuta, Clay Siddoway and Matt McBride each scored a touchdown in a game where Vale established jurisdiction early.
In the weeks before Saturday’s game, Clatskanie defeated Heppner 46-0, Umatilla 67-0 and Blanchet Catholic 52-0.
Vale, meanwhile, was relegated to trying to bull its way through a harsh preseason schedule against top Idaho teams such as Cole Valley Christian and Weiser.
The Vikings dropped both of those games.
So, Clatskanie had every reason to be confident going into the Saturday contest.
But so did the Vikings.
“I believe our kids were more prepared because we have been playing some good teams,” said Aldred.
He said he challenged his team.
“I told them this is a real test for us,” said Aldred.
Within moments of the first kick-off, the Vikings began to answer his challenge and dominated.
“We came out very physical. The kids played hard and Clatskanie had been blowing everybody out and I don’t think they’d really played four full quarters,” said Aldred.
Aldred said he felt the Clatskanie coaching staff prepared well for his team but that the players weren’t used to being hit so hard, so early and so often.
“I think sometimes people get caught up in rankings. Our kids played with a chip on their shoulder and it was a good measuring stick game,” said Aldred.
Vale’s muscular offense and defense kept Clatskanie off balance until the final quarter, when the Tigers mounted a comeback bid that ultimately fell short.
The Vale football team is one of those venerated programs that can trace success – measured in state titles – back decades. This year, Aldred said, word was that the Vikings would be down slightly from years past. That sentiment didn’t and doesn’t sit well with the 2018 edition of the Vikings, said Aldred.
“We have a lot of kids on our team who were told that you are not as good as that player or this kid. But they work hard. They pay attention and they like each other. They are coming in with something to prove,” said Aldred.
Aldred said he saw the pre-season schedule in May and realized then his team would face adversity.
“We thought, OK, we will have a real good idea what we are made of,” said Aldred.
What the Vikings are made of, said Aldred, is clear now.
“They are very, very resilient,” said Aldred. The Viking’s blue-collar characteristics will go on the road this week in Idaho for another tough non-league job against Homedale.
“They are big and physical and fast,” Aldred said. “They have not had a close game.”
Aldred said while he and his coaches will work on a new game plan, they won’t have to worry about their player’s work ethic or their commitment.
“They don’t shy away from anybody. We have battled through some adversity, but this is a team. Every game is a playoff game, that is what it feels like,” said Aldred.