The Vale Vikings will face No. 1-ranked Rainier in a Class 3A semi-final football game Saturday at 4 p.m. (Pacific Time) at Hermiston High School. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz).
VALE – The coaches of Vale and Rainier football teams share a worry: their opponents’ quarterback.
Coach Jeff Aldred will lead the 7-4 Vikings onto the field Saturday at Hermiston High School against Mike King’s No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Rainier Columbians (11-0) in a Class 3A semi-final match up.
Aldred said the Columbians are “really, really good.” Aldred said Rainier’s biggest threat is versatile senior quarterback Joey Tripp.
Tripp helped navigate the Columbians to their perfect regular season. Last week against Clatskkanie, Tripp carried the ball 40 times for 258 yards and three touchdowns. Earlier in the season against then No. 1-ranked Amity, Tripp scored seven touchdowns and amassed more than 300 yards to lead Rainier to a 60-54 win.
Tripp’s talent means he will be a high priority for the Viking defense.
“With a player like Tripp, we can’t miss tackles,” said Aldred. “We will have to rally to the football.”
If Vale can’t stop Tripp it will be in for a long afternoon, Aldred said.
On the other sideline, King said the Columbians must contain Viking junior quarterback Colton Kesey.
Kesey tossed 25 touchdowns this season, ran for 307 yards and amassed 2,051 yards through the air.
“He throws the ball well on the run and he is pretty savvy. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” said King.
King also pointed out that Kesey has a talented cast to rely on during a game.
“They’ve got a bunch of athletes,” said King.
That group – senior receiver Tanner Hamilton, junior tight end Kade Haueter, junior receiver Jared Fulwyler, junior tailback Matt McBride and senior Clay Siddoway – matured over the season into a veteran group that expects victory.
Saturday, Vale will be in its best health since the season began. Injuries earlier in the season haunted the Vikings and forced coaches to place players in unfamiliar positions.
“It seemed like earlier in the season the injuries were like a revolving door,” said Aldred.
The Vikings will welcome back to the lineup junior tailback Keegan Mizuta. Mizuta sat out six games with a torn quadriceps but Aldred said he is 100 percent now.
“He’s looked fast in practice. He is a very durable running back,” said Aldred.
Aldred said Mizuta “adds depth to the offensive side football for us.”
King said the Columbians won’t look past Vale.
“I think they are very fundamentally sound and very physical and definitely a dangerous team,” said King.
Aldred said Rainier will be a challenge.
“It will be a battle. But I think our kids have earned this opportunity. We don’t shy away from anybody and we are the type of program that will play anybody anywhere,” said Aldred.
The game will be broadcast on the OSAA Radio Network and there will be a live feed presented by The High School Sports Network.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.