Vale’s defense stymied the Hilander offense for most of the second-round playoff game Saturday in Burns. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz).
BURNS – The Viking football machine is hitting on all cylinders.
A week after smashing Sutherlin 49-7, Vale put together another near-flawless performance to beat Burns 36-14 Saturday. The win sets the stage for a semifinal match up against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Rainier Saturday in Hermiston. The Vale-Rainier game is set for 5 p.m. Mountain Time at Hermiston High School.
The Vale win over Burns was especially poignant for the Vikings. That’s because three weeks ago the Hilanders handed the Vikings a 26-6 loss to claim the Eastern Oregon League championship.
Yet it was that loss, said Coach Jeff Aldred, that helped redefine the Vikings season. After the defeat in league play, Aldred said he and his coaching staff went back to the basics and focused on fundamentals. That change so far has paid big dividends for the Vikings.
Saturday, the Viking offense operated with championship-level proficiency.
Vale scored its first touchdown just 28 seconds into the game for a 7-0 lead.
“We had a little momentum there,” said Aldred.
The score set the stage for a sweeping Viking win where quarterback Colton Kesey was 17 of 23 for 231 yards, Kade Haueter scored two touchdowns and Tanner Hamilton chalked up three scores. Hamilton also hauled in 10 passes for 151 yards. Not long after the first score, a bad snap on a Burns punt led to a safety and a 9-0 Vale edge. From there the Vikings never looked back.
Aldred said while the offense performed with precision, he said the star was the defense.
Viking defenders limited Hilander quarterback Mick Winn to just 19 yards through the air and corralled the Burns running game for most of the contest.
“We gave Burns multiple looks (on defense). I think Burns started second-guessing themselves a little bit. And we came out intense,” said Aldred.
Vale led 23-0 at halftime and was ahead 36-0 at the end of the third stanza.
After the league game against Burns, Aldred said the from the beginning that game felt “weird.”
“This game had a different feeling. I knew we were well prepared. We have some good, strong athletic kids and I think we had them rattled offensively pretty early,” said Aldred.
Vale ended the day with nearly 300 yards of offense.
“We were a lot more aggressive,” said Aldred.
Aldred said the Sutherlin win was important for Vale in its preparation for Burns.
“It was a huge boost for us in how we played physical,” said Aldred.
The Vikings have played tough competition – Weiser, Homedale, Nyssa and Burns – throughout the season but they may face their roughest challenge against Rainier.
The Columbians are 11-0 and scored 467 points during the season. In their five league game, the Columbians scored more than 30 points each time.
“They have kids that can really make plays,” said Aldred.
Rainier defeated Clatskanie 18-7 in a semi-final game Saturday. Vale defeated then No. 1- ranked Clatskanie 20-14 in a non-league game in September.
Aldred said Rainier’s high-powered offense would be tough to defend against.
“We feel there are some things we can do keep that offense down a little bit,” said Aldred.
Aldred said there is no magic formula to defeating the Columbians.
“We will have to be sure tacklers. Doing the fundamental things correctly will really be big for us. It will come down to some great individual efforts,” said Aldred.
The Columbians carry plenty of weapons in their arsenal, including quarterback Joey Tripp.
“He will carry the ball 40 times. Their offense revolves around that player,” said Aldred.
That means, Aldred said, that defense will be more important than ever.
“We will have to gang tackle,” said Aldred. “It will come down to who gets more defensive stops and who makes the least mistakes.”
Offensively, he said, the Vikings must continue to function at a high level.
Aldred said, though, he isn’t worried.
“I think they (the players) are excited and confidence is high,” said Aldred.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.