Vale's John Wolfe (1) tackles Sutherlin runner Adan Diaz (2) during their game Saturday in Vale. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL).
VALE – Vale coach Jeff Aldred shifted the focus of his team last week in practice and his decision paid big dividends Saturday as the Vikings (9-1) rolled over Sutherlin 43-8 in a first-round 3A prep football playoff contest.
“We focused on us and what we do. We spent a little more time on fundamentals, assignments, alignments, the little things you have to do in the playoffs,” said Aldred.
Vale now goes on the road to face No. 2-ranked Rainier (8-1) Saturday in Kelso, Wash., at 1 p.m. Pacific time.
Rainier on Friday beat Nyssa/Harper Charter 34-6. The Bulldogs finished their season 3-6 overall.
In other playoff action, Adrian beat Imbler and the top-ranked Antelopes (10-0) will face Dufur (6-4) Saturday at Adrian at 1 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Rangers beat Gold Beach 58-40.
In Vale, the Vikings scored early, held back a modest Sutherlin rally in the first quarter and used an opportunistic defense to clinch the win.
“They were bigger than us but our physicality and intensity overwhelmed them,” said Viking quarterback Tanner Steele after the game.
Steele finished the game 3-of-10 for 124 yards in the air and scored a touchdown. The Vikings piled up 333 yards of total offense for the game. Sutherlin ended the night with 166 yards of total offense.
“We started exactly how we wanted. We secured the game early, got guys some rest and we got out healthy. I could not have asked for a better situation,” said Aldred.
Eli Aldred scored two touchdowns and receiver John Wolfe added a pair of scores — including a punt return — as the Vikings built a 35-8 lead by halftime.
The Viking defense feasted on Sutherlin turnovers to help take control of the game in the first half.
Vale quarterback Tanner Steele (9) runs downfield during a playoff game against Sutherlin Saturday. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL).
Sutherlin fumbled five times during the game and Vale translated two of those turnovers into scores.
“We had a good scheme and plan offensively and the kids executed well,” said Aldred.
A Sutherlin fumble in the opening minutes of the game set up Vale’s first touchdown, an 18-yard scoring toss from Steele to Wolfe with 8:08 to go in the first quarter.
Sutherlin, helped by back-to-back pass interference penalties against Vale, went ahead 8-6 on Enrique Diaz’s 14-yard touchdown and successful point-after conversion late in the first quarter.
Then the Vale football machine went to work.
Eli Aldred’s 85-yard kickoff return pushed the home team ahead 14-8 and then Steele’s scoring run early in the second stanza gave Vale a 20-8 edge.
Peter McBride’s 12-yard scoring run with 7:14 to go in the half put the Vikings out in front 27-8.
Aldred’s touchdown pass reception with three minutes remaining in the first half gave Vale 35-8 advantage and effectively sealed the contest.
“They’re pretty tough,” Sutherlin coach Josh Gary said of Vale after the game.
Wolfe’s 52-yard punt return in the third quarter gave the home team a 43-8 lead and ended the Viking scoring.
“Our intensity was really good. I think we played a very physical brand of football that you have to play in the playoffs,” said Aldred.
Vale's Will Friend (52) races to tackle Sutherlin running back Thomas Mentes (34). (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL).
Sutherlin moved the ball well at times but could never put together a consistent scoring drive against a swarming Viking defense.
“We had guys flying around and rallying to the ball defensively,” said Aldred.
Running back Nathan Kimball paced the Vale offense with 69 yards on 10 carries.
Eli Aldred said the win was “huge.”
“Our offensive line did great,” he said.
Aldred said he likes Vale’s chances in the quarterfinals.
“Our defense has played well all year. Our defense is physical and fast but we will have to take it to the next level,” said Aldred.
As with Sutherlin, focus will be a big key against Rainier, said Aldred.
“We have to have a state championship effort this Saturday,” said Aldred.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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