Vale defensive lineman Lucas Villastrigo brushes off a block as he sprints toward Nyssa quarterback Ethan Draper during a game earlier this season. Vale slammed Umatilla 55-6 last weekend and now sets up for game against Burns Friday that has playoff implications. (The Enterprise/Jayme Fraser).
UMATILLA – It will be the biggest game of the year for Vale when Burns comes to town Friday.
If last weekend’s performance in Umatilla is any indication, the Viking offense may be peaking at just the right time.
Vale overpowered Umatilla 55-6 last weekend as quarterback Colton Kesey threw for 300 yards – including 233 in the first half – and the Viking defense limited Umatilla to 178 total yards for the game.
“We jumped all over them. We went up there really focused on getting better in what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks,” said Viking coach Jeff Aldred. Vale amassed nearly 500 yards of total offense and held a 42-0 lead at halftime.
“I think our speed overwhelmed them early on. Our receivers did a good job of running after the catch, and that has been a point of emphasis,” said Aldred.
The victory set up Vale for what will be another serious league challenge when the Hilanders arrive Friday for a game with playoff implications.
“It’s a big one,” said Aldred of the game against Burns.
How big is hard to underestimate. Burns comes to town with a 7-1 record and is ranked fifth in the state by the Oregon School Activities Association.
Vale, meanwhile, is 5-3 overall and ranked fourth. If Vale defeats Burns, the Vikings win the Eastern Oregon League title and a nearly guaranteed first-round playoff home game.
Aldred cautioned that Burns will be a tough nut to crack.
“They play very hard. They are extremely efficient offensively. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and they make you beat them,” said Aldred.
The Vikings, though, are familiar with tough teams. After playing a brutal preseason scheulde – including power teams such as Idaho’s Homedale and Weiser – Vale navigated past EOL league rival Nyssa and knocked off previously undefeated Clatskanie earlier in the season.
Aldred said his team is looking forward to the challenge Friday.
“This is the biggest game and we won’t shy away from it. It is what it is. A league championship game on a Friday night at home, I don’t know what more you can ask for,” said Aldred. Over the course of the season, the Vikings adopted a workmanlike approach to games, merging a potent offensive attack with tough defense.
“We’ve become extremely efficient offensively,” said Aldred.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.