Big ‘D’ leads to SH football win at North Valley

Ben Maki

For the New Era

The Sweet Home football team needed a stop.

North Valley of Grants Pass had chewed nearly three minutes off the clock midway through the fourth quarter just getting to midfield.

The Knights were churning their way down the field on a would-be game-winning drive.

Then, the Huskies sacked starting quarterback Robbie Stalford, who left the game with an ankle injury. Two plays later, Hunter Jutte intercepted a pass from backup quarterback Noah Brosio, which set up Jutte’s second touchdown of the game in a 22-12 nonconference game at North Valley.

Jutte put the final touches on the win with a 60-yard touchdown reception from Justin Tow in which Jutte slipped past the free safety and didn’t have a North Valley player within 10 yards at the time of the score.

“We saw them getting tired, cramping, (making) subs,” Jutte said. “Then, we put the nail in the coffin, and it was over.”

The Huskies (2-1 overall) had just taken back the lead minutes earlier when they gave the ball to Brandon Keenon on 12 of the 13 plays in the scoring drive, including on a pair of fourth downs.

“I just had total faith,” Sweet Home coach Dustin Nichol said. “I put it on our linemen at halftime. You’re going to win or lose this game for us. On both sides of the ball. I said ‘We can be more physical than they are.’ I said ‘When it’s crunch time, you’ve got to just cowboy up and get things done.’ ”

Keenon finished the game with 25 carries for 135 yards and the game-winning score.

“He’s our man,” Jutte said of Keenon. “We have big confidence in our line this year. Some are young, but we know we’re going to get the push and he’ll get the job done.”

North Valley (1-2), which was missing several defensive starters with injury, including on the defensive line and at linebacker, couldn’t find an answer at the end of the game for Keenon.

“They attacked us right where we had two guys out of the game,” North Valley coach Neil DeForrest said. “We had guys in there trying to hold their own the best they could. Good coaching. They went right where the backups were in.”

Sweet Home chewed six minutes of clock and took a 16-12 lead knowing North Valley running back Jordan Hannah could break a long run at many moment, as he did early in the first quarter of the game.

“We came into this game knowing who their star was,” Jutte said. “The plan was to hit him every play. We knew they were going score early. We tried to stop it. We knew we couldn’t, but then once it got down to second half, that’s when our mentality kicks in that we got this.”

Nichol said Jutte’s play at safety was a key factor in the win for Sweet Home.

“Thank goodness we had a safety stepping up to make some tackles,” he said. “The read option leaves it up to one guy and if he gets juked or misses a tackle, they’re off to the races. Hunter had about eight upending tackles, where he put the guy’s feet up where his head should be.”

Hannah, who ran for 96 yards in the first half, including a 55-yard score, finished with just 118 yards in the game.

“Up until the last touchdown, we were there completely believing we were going to get the ball, take it down score and win,” DeForrest said. “That last touchdown kind of broke our backs.”

Nichol had his defense ready to negate whatever the Knights threw at them.

“Last year, we ran a three-man front against them, because we saw more bubble screens to the outside,” Nichol said. “This year, they had been more between the tackles, so we ran a four-man front. The one run they did get, we switched over to the (three-man front), because the percentages and it was 75 percent of the time on third and long, they pass.

“We went back to that (four-man front) and pretty much controlled it the rest of the night. Our defense stepped up and did a great job.”

He said defensive end Ryan J. Adams had three sacks, for the second straight game, and George Rayborn “caused havoc up the middle.”

Ryan R. Adams, in the defensive backfield, had an interception along with another by Jutte.

“We won the turnover battle,” Nichol said. “We didn’t have any turnovers.”

He said he was concerned about some delay of game and off-sides penalties, but said he was to blame for at least one of the former and the officials’ placement of the ball caught his team off guard and led to an off-sides call.

The Huskies took their first lead of the game when Jutte scored on a 40-yard catch and run from Tow along the Sweet Home sideline. The extra point gave them the lead, because North Valley botched the snap on its extra point earlier in the quarter.

Sweet Home pushed the lead to 9-6 in the second quarter on a safety by Rayborn.

“It was a team effort to get that safety, but George was the first one there,” Nichol said.

Tow completed 5 of 10 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Jutte caught three of those passes for 115 yards and both scores. Eric Flierl and Bryson Mitten each caught one pass for seven and six yards, respectively.

“Our offense handled things,” Nichol said. “We kind of struggled a little bit there, but we did enough to get the job done. We routed them pretty good. It was a long ride, 3½, four hours down there, but that win made it a nice, enjoyable ride home.”

Next up for Sweet Home is Cottage Grove, at Husky Stadium Friday at 7 p.m. The Lions, 0-3, have faced tough competition in Marshfield (26-12), North Bend (56-15) and Henley (21-0), so Nichol said he isn’t making any assumptions about a team that went to the state finals last year.

“They have two or three seniors, so they’re down a little bit. But they’ve got Gary Roberts. He’s a good coach and it’s a good program. They know how to win. They’ve been league champs twice in the five years I’ve been here.

“Whenever Cottage Grove and Sweet Home meet up, it’s always a good game. I’m expecting nothing less this week. It’s gonna be a real challenge for us.”

Scoring Summary

Sweet Home 22, North Valley 12

SH 7 2 0 13—22

NV 6 0 6 0—12

First quarter

NV — Jordan Hannah 5 run (run failed), 8:27

SH — Hunter Jutte 40 pass from Justin Tow (Jutte kick), 3:22

Second quarter

SH — George Rayborn safety, 4:13

Third quarter

NV — Antonio Garcia 21 pass from Robbie Stalford (kick failed), 5:11

Fourth quarter

SH — Brandon Keenon 13 run (Jutte kick), 5:29

SH — Jutte 60 pass from Tow (kick failed), 2:16

Individual statistics

Rushing — SH: Keenon 25-135, Kyler Gaskey 13-29, Team 1-(minus 1); NV: Hannah 16-118, Stalford 6-17, Jake Roberts 3-11, Hunter Comyford 3-9

Passing — SH: Tow 5-10-0—128, Jutte 0-1-0—0; NV: Stalford 5-12-0—51, Noah Brosio 0-5-2—0

Receiving — SH: Jutte 3-115, Eric Flierl 1-7, Bryson Mitten 1-6; NV: Garcia 3-34, Randy Nicholson 1-8, Byron Thatcher 1-5

– Scott Swanson contributed to this story.