Vale grid squad gears up for first-round playoff action

Vale’s Jacob Graviet (No.54) runs to tackle Jaden Tiller of Burns during their game Friday night in Burns. (For the Enterprise/Angie Aldred)

VALE – The Viking football team will take on Yamhill-Carlton Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs and head coach Jeff Aldred said the Tigers are a little bit of a mystery.

“We don’t know a whole lot about them. We have two films on them and other schools we know pretty well don’t know them that well,” said Aldred.

The Tigers hold first place in the Pac-West Conference with a 9-0 record and are ranked seventh in the state by the Oregon School Activities Association. Last year the Tigers didn’t qualify for the playoffs and finished the season with a 5-4 record.

In other playoff action, Nyssa did not play last weekend but finished the season in third place in the EOL. That means the Bulldogs will travel to play No. 2-ranked Santiam Christian Saturday at 1 p.m. in Adair Village, north of Corvallis. Santiam Christian is 9-0. Nyssa is ranked 18th.

Anticipating Saturday’s game in Yamhill for the Vikings, Aldred said, “We feel we match up pretty well and can move the ball. We feel the style they run offensively we feel we match up defensively with them.”

Tiger coach Brennon Mossholder said the playoff game will be a “tough match-up.”

“Admittedly we have not played the same level of schedule that Vale has. We know they will certainly be a battle-tested squad. Vale seems to have some very good size on both the offensive and defensive lines,” said Mossholder.

Despite Vale’s size advantage, Mossholder said he believes the Tigers are similar athletically to the Vikings.

“I think the game will come down to turnovers and who makes the fewest mistakes,” said Mossholder.

One of Aldred’s biggest challenges this week will be to find a way to replace impact-player Matt McBride. The senior running back dislocated his shoulder during the third play of the game against Burns last weekend and is out for the season.

“He is a three-year starter, on both offense and defense. He will be hard to replace. So, the key for us will be to get adequate replacements for him and the next guys need to step up,” said Aldred.

Aldred said the loss of McBride in the Burns game was critical.

“It is like losing four players. You are losing multiple positions,” said Aldred.

Vale (3-1, 5-4) ended the season last year with a deep run into the playoffs before it lost to Rainier 40-13 in a semi-final contest.

This year, Vale had a chance to claim the league title in Burns on Friday, but turnovers and penalties doomed the Vikings and the Hilanders posted a 27-8 victory. With the win, Burns claims the No. 1 slot from the Eastern Oregon League and hosts Scio (5-4) Friday night.

Friday against Burns, Vale turned the ball over three times and then had a key touchdown called back because of an illegal formation penalty.

“We have got to play cleaner football. We can’t fumble three times and need to quit having penalties in the red zone. These are the same problems we’ve had all year long. One week we have them fixed and then the next week they crop up,” said Aldred.

The Burns defense limited the typically efficient Viking run game to just 57 yards in the first half while the Hilanders built a 14-0 lead. Jaden Tiller led the Hilanders on the ground with 85 yards on 11 carries and scored a touchdown.

The Hilanders went ahead 20-0 at the start of the third stanza.

“They put together a real nice drive at the start of the third quarter. We had some third-and-long opportunities and had a couple of miscommunications on defense that led to some first downs. We just couldn’t get them off the field,” said Aldred.

Aldred said Burns “executed, no doubt about it.”

“They converted on their opportunities,” said Aldred.

Vale quarterback Colton Kesey had another solid night navigating the Viking offense and finished 12 of 28 for 122 yards passing and no interceptions. Kesey also paced the Viking run game with 67 yards on eight carries.

Jared Fulwyler ended the game with 56 yards receiving for the Vikings.

Vale didn’t get score until late in the fourth quarter, when Kesey hooked up with John Wolfe on a 30-yard scoring strike.

Burns racked up 400 yards of offense while Vale amassed 219 yards, including just 40 yards rushing in the second half.

Despite the loss Aldred said his team is moving forward.

“It is as new season. If we limit our mistakes and execute at a much higher level, than I like our chances,” said Aldred.

Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

SUBSCRIBE TO HELP PRODUCE VITAL REPORTING — For $5 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news produced by a professional and highly trained staff. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.