VALE – The Vikings may be peaking at the right time and they are doing it with defense.
The Vale varsity football team shut down the visiting Burns Hilanders Friday, Oct. 28, 40-7 to clinch the Eastern Oregon League title and – once again – earn a first-round playoff game at home.
The Vikings (6-2) will face Siuslaw (7-2) Saturday at Vale High School at 1 p.m. in a Class 3A contest.
Meanwhile Ontario (5-3) also claimed a Class 3A postseason spot and will travel to play Cascade Christian (9-0) Friday, Nov. 4 for a 7 p.m. game.
In 1A football play, Adrian (7-2) takes on Dufur (4-4) Friday, Nov. 4, at 1 p.m. in Adrian.
Siuslaw will be a tough challenge for the Vikings, said Vale coach Jeff Aldred.
“They are big and physical and a run-heavy team. They are defending state champions so they have a lot of kids who have been there and done that,” said Aldred.
Aldred said Siuslaw is “very similar to us.”
“Their losses came early in the year. I think our teams are pretty similar when it comes to the type of kids we have,” said Aldred.
Siuslaw’s last defeat –28-14 to La Pine – occurred Sept. 16. Since then Siuslaw has won six straight. Vale’s last loss was a 55-12 non-league defeat at Melba Sept. 23.
Aldred said he likes where his team is at mentally and physically.
“Confidence is high. We’ve been able to be really balanced between the run game and the passing game. Everybody is healthy and strong right now and our offensive line has improved each and every week,” he said.
Defense, though, has set the standard for Vale, especially in the last games against Nyssa and Burns.
“Our run defense is just outstanding,” said Aldred.
Friday night against Burns (2-6), the Viking defense established jurisdiction early and never let go. Vale stopped the Hilander running game cold then used a scoring binge late in the first half to seal the win.
Vale held Burns’ ground attack to minus 10 yards rushing in the first half and minus 13 yards in the second half.
“Our defensive front is really good and we are creating turnovers,” said Aldred.
Vale held a 6-0 lead late in the second quarter and an interception by Brooks Haueter set up Eli Aldred’s 16-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds left in the half to give the home team a 14-0 advantage.
On the next possession by Burns, another interception set up Colten Stepleton’s touchdown dive with nine seconds left and a 20-0 Vale lead.
Stepleton intercepted a pass early in the third quarter and ran it back for a touchdown to push the Vale lead to 26-0.
There was still a quarter and a half of play remaining but the game was essentially over.
Burns scored its only touchdown late in the final stanza.
The Vikings piled up 388 total yards of offense while five players scored touchdowns. Along with Eli Aldred and Stepleton, Kase Schaffeld, Brooks Haueter and Owen Crane scored touchdowns.
“We focused on wrapping up a tackling,” said Crane after the game.
Crane downplayed his touchdown.
“I like tackling more,” he said.
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