Vikings prep for big game tonight

Tonight tradition and playoff expectations will be the key theme as the Vale football team faces Burns in the final game of the season for both teams. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – Big games are nothing new to the Vale football Vikings.

For 40 years and 12 state championships – more than any other prep football program in Oregon – huge games evolved into a rule rather than an exception for Vale football.

Tonight the 2018 edition of the Vale Vikings face yet another important game with playoff implications when they face Burns at Hawley Stadium at 7 p.m.

Burns (7-1) holds is ranked fifth in the state and Vale (5-3) is ranked fourth. A Vale win tonight gives the Vikings the Eastern Oregon League title and most likely a home game in the first round of state playoffs. If Burns wins, the league seeding picture becomes a bit more complicated.

That’s because a Burns win will mean the top three teams in the league – Vale, Burns and Nyssa – have all beat each other once.

Viking Coach Jeff Aldred is focused on tonight.

 “They run some stuff we haven’t seen like the triple option,” said Aldred.

 “Everyone will have to play assignment football,” said Aldred.

“Everyone” means the starting varsity for the Vikings, a football squad that weathered more than its share of challenges during its autumn schedule. They opened against some of the best teams in Oregon and Idaho, such as Homedale and Clatskanie. Then there were injuries to key players.

“We had four games where we were 100 percent healthy. And all four of those games we won,” said Aldred.

Then, of course, there were the whispers about this year’s team.

They were in a rebuilding year.

They were not like the storied Viking squads of the past.

They probably were not going to make the playoffs.

The team, Aldred said, did not let the whispers define the season. Aldred said his team used those murmurs of doubt as motivation.

“Expectations are high every year. So, you kind of have to manage expectations year to year,” said Aldred.

At one point in the season the Vikings were 1-3, not a terrible record early in the season for any other team in Oregon.

Unless its Vale.

Aldred said he and his coaching staff worked hard to put the early record into perspective for the Vikings.

“We talked a lot about the schedule and the quality teams we were playing,” said Aldred. “We just used the old cliché of one game at a time.”

The Vikings did just that.

 “Everyone thought this was a down year for us, but our line really stepped up,” said junior quarterback Colton Kesey. “But we wanted to prove that this would a good year.”

Kesey said the Vikings are confident about tonight’s game.

“We all kind of like having that mentality of just wanting to compete,” said Kesey.

Kesey said any time the Vikings step on a football field they expect victory.

“And to leave it all out there on the field,” said Kesey.

There isn’t a star on the Viking squad. No central, prime-time player that can turn a game around on a dime. That’s just fine with Kesey.

“We all play with a V on the side of our helmets,” said Kesey.

 Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.