Vale's Colton Kesey takes off on a quarterback keeper during second half action against Nyssa last Friday night. Vale won the game 20-10. (The Enterprise/Jayme Fraser).

NYSSA - Their record plus local prep sports wisdom ruled that maybe this year the Vale Viking football team wasn’t in the same category as those storied squads of the past.

The Vikings walked onto the Nyssa football field Friday night for one of the more anticipated grid contests in a while with a 2-3 preseason record.

Nyssa, meanwhile, cruised through its pre-season and first league game behind a high-octane offense and solid defense to post a 4-0 mark.

The math said Nyssa held the advantage, but someone forgot to clue in the Vikings.

Instead, Vale put together a nearly flawless effort to post a 20-10 league victory that proved to be much more than a mere win and instead may serve as a statement by the Vikings.

Vale’s win was a simple one built on a blue-collar, workmanlike scaffold that is sturdy and growing stronger by the week.

“You lose a couple of games and people start to write you off. Our record is probably very deceiving to an opponent, but we have a very quick athletic group of kids with high football IQs,” said Jeff Aldred, Vale coach.

Vale now is ranked third in the state in 3A football. Amity is the top-ranked team.

Vale’s offense operated with efficiency and its defense made the necessary adjustments to slow down and finally stop Nyssa’s high-powered offense. There was nothing flashy about the Vale attack against a seasoned Nyssa squad. The Vikings did what they do – run the ball and pass effectively.

“We played together as a team tonight really well. And we felt confident we could score on offense,” said Vale quarterback Colton Kesey.

Standing at his familiar position next to the north goalposts after the contest, Nyssa Coach Lee Long tipped his hat to the Vikings.

“Those kids did a good job,” said Long. “They did a good job of controlling our offense.”

The game was also notable for the quality of play. Only two penalties – one on Nyssa and one on Vale – were called for the entire contest.

“You know, it was just two hard-nosed teams,” said Aldred.

Kesey put together a virtuoso performance navigating the Viking offense, especially in the first half. The junior quarterback finished the night 14 of 17 for 160 yards. All but 19 of those yards in the air came in the first half when the game quickly evolved into a war of attrition. Yet it was Vale’s balance – equal shares of good offense and defense – that made the difference.

“Colton has an extremely strong arm and can throw on the run and is very agile and that is a huge advantage for us,” said Aldred.

Long said his team wasn’t ready for Kesey’s precision airstrikes.

“We haven’t really been challenged with the pass. We practiced against it but they (Vale) still did very well,” said Long.

Yet it was a run – a counter play to be exact – that clinched the win for the Vikings. Holding a 14-10 lead early in the fourth stanza, Clay Siddoway bounced inside on a counter play and sprinted 49 yards for a touchdown for what proved to be a decisive 20-10 lead.

Aldred said the play wasn’t designed for a touchdown. It just worked out that way.

“I was just thinking about moving the sticks. But it was blocked perfectly,” said Aldred.

The Bulldogs proved to be resilient and, at least early on, appeared to be potent on offense. But after Nyssa’s opening drive, the Bulldog offense struggled.

Nyssa’s first drive was impressive. The Bulldogs started on their own 36-yard line and used six plays to go 64 yards to score when quarterback Ethan Draper hooked up with Elijah Cleaver on a 24-yard touchdown toss.

Aldred said he wasn’t worried about facing a 7-0 deficit so early.

“We’ve played from behind the majority of the year,” he said.

Aldred said even as the Bulldogs were moving down the field on their first drive, he and his coaches tweaked their game plan.

“I knew our defensive staff would make the proper adjustments,” said Aldred.

After Nyssa’s opening score, the Vikings answered on the next series and capped an 11-play scoring assault with Kesey’s touchdown throw to Tanner Hamilton to knot the score 7-7 with 3:53 to go in the first quarter.

Nyssa added a field goal for a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, but the Vikings went ahead 14-10 on Kesey’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Kade Haueter with 8:46 to go in the half.

Vale’s defense limited the Bulldogs to 34 rushing yards in the second half and 159 yards rushing for the game.

The Viking offense also managed to shut down Nyssa’s Draper. The week before Draper dissected Umatilla, throwing six touchdown passes. Against the Vikings Draper was 8 of 16 for 87 yards.

Nyssa’s Jose Sanchez paced the Bulldog attack on the ground with 120 yards on 19 carries.

Now Nyssa’s road doesn’t get any easier. Friday the Bulldogs – 1-1 in league and 4-2 overall – travel to face undefeated Burns.

“It’s a huge game. They are undefeated and good,” said Long.

Long said he isn’t worried Nyssa will stall after losing to Vale.

“Our season isn’t over. We can still make the playoffs and a league championship is not out of the question,” said Long.

The Vikings face Irrigon Friday in a league contest and Vale’s schedule is beginning to lighten up.

“The schedule will finally be breaking our way,” said Aldred.

After Irrigon, Vale (1-0, 3-3) will play Umatilla and then face Burns in the last game of the season.

After the game and surrounded by teammates and fans, Kesey thought hard about why the Vikings won.

“Our offensive line really stepped up,” he said.

Then he paused for a moment.

“You know, we all like to work really hard,” he said.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.