Vikings prepare for playoff game after falling short against Hilanders

Vale’s Matt Arritola grabs for a Burns runner while teammate Clay Siddoway falls to the ground during Friday night’s game against the Hilanders. (The Enterprise/Jayme Fraser).

VALE – A harbinger of things to come for the Vale Vikings occurred just minutes into their game against Burns Friday night.

After the Vikings stopped the Hilanders on their first possession, Vale’s Kade Haueter blocked a Burns punt. The block set the Vikings deep in Burns territory.

Two penalties against the Hilanders moved the ball to the Hilander four-yard line.

The stage seemed set for a Vale score, but the Viking offense fizzled, and Burns got the ball back on downs.

The failed scoring opportunity seemed insignificant at the time, but it proved to be a microcosm of the kind of game that quickly unfolded. While Vale’s usually machine-like offense struggled to get on track, Burns put together a prime-time performance to post a 26-6 victory.

Statistics rarely tell the entire story of a contest but the numbers from this game come close. Vale ended the night with 239 yards of offense. Burns walked away from Hawley Stadium with 389 yards of offense.

“You have to give all the credit to Burns. We didn’t match the intensity level that Burns brought,” said Vale Coach Jeff Aldred. Everything that could go wrong did for the Vikings. A usually disciplined Viking squad dropped passes, fumbled, suffered penalties at crucial times that killed drives and seemed just a few seconds off the entire contest.

“Every time we got some momentum it got taken away by yellow flags,” said Aldred.

Vale (5-4) faced an early deficit – the Vikings trailed 13-0 late in the first quarter after Viking quarterback Colton Kesey threw a rare interception that led to a score The Viks were behind 19-6 midway through the second stanza.

“I think getting down early and trying to play catch-up, we started to play with a different kind of urgency and kids started playing tight,” said Aldred.

Mick Winn’s long scoring run in the fourth quarter put Burns ahead 26-6 and sealed the victory. Winn had 171 yards on 24 carries.

“The breaks we did get just never turned into anything,” said Aldred. “Burns got us out of our rhythm offensively and I think we were shell shocked.”

Aldred said the effort by his team was there but “multiple people were just a little off.”

Vale’s only score of the game came at the 11:48 mark of the second frame when Kesey hooked up with Clay Siddoway on a pass.

“It was a strange game. The kids seemed a bit distracted and Burns just made more plays,” said Aldred.

Kesey was 17 of 35 for 147 yards through the air and led the Viking rushing attack with 56 yards.

With the win, Burns earned first place in the Eastern Oregon League with Vale second and Nyssa third.

First-round playoff action shapes up like this:

At 1 p.m. Saturday, Vale will face Sutherlin at Hawley Stadium while Nyssa will hit the road to take on Willamina at 2 p.m.

Burns will play Hidden Valley Friday night.

Aldred said he didn’t know much about Sutherlin. Part of the Far West League, the Bulldogs are 7-2 overall.

Aldred said the playoffs represent the start of a new season for the Vikings.

“You throw the records out the window at this point,” said Aldred.

Aldred said the Vikings must take control of games in the playoffs.

“We need to be more balanced and be firmer up front. Tackle better,” he said. Aldred said the loss to Burns may pay off down the road.

“I think this is a good lesson for this group. Hopefully moving forward this will be a little blip,” said Aldred.

“We need to refocus. I told them when you play good teams you have to stay focused,” said Aldred.

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