Football: After shutting down Cottage Grove, Huskies to face No. 4 Marist

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home football (2-2) faces off against No. 4-ranked Marist Catholic (3-1) on the road at 7 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 30. The Trojans sit atop Special District 3, while Sweet Home is fifth out of seven teams.

“They are obviously a really good opponent,” Head Coach Ryan Adams said of Marist. “The last couple of years they’ve had a lot of success down there. They’re kind of running our league right now as one of the top dogs, so we’re really just excited for the opportunity to play and test ourselves, and see where we measure up compared to a team like that.”

He said that Marist’s run game is “really dominant,” and that the Spartans’ offense is run-heavy.

When they do throw, he said the Spartans like to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands with quick-outs, which means that “it’s kind of hard to put pressure on them. And then it’s just a matter of, can your guys make plays on the outside?”

Adams said that he think Sweet Home “matches up well in a situation like that. It’s just a question of whether we can be consistent enough to do it all game long.”

Offensively, the Huskies will look to find open spaces. “We think we have the ability to do what we do and run our traditional spread stuff,” Adams said. “Athletically, we feel like we match up pretty well against their guys. We’re just going to try to get our guys the ball in space and hopefully they can execute in one on one matchups and make some plays for us.”

“When we look skillswise at the athletes we have, I think we measure up pretty well,” the coach continued. “I think we’re going to be able to compete, and it’s just going to be a matter of which team executes better than the other.”

Of Marist, Adams said “They are super well coached and have a really strong tradition there. So our kids and us as a coaching staff are excited to go toe to toe with that.”

He noted that “Everybody kind of expects and knows how Marist is going to show up and compete, because they’ve proved it time and time again over the last couple of years. So it’s just a matter of what Sweet Home team is going to show up that night.”

The Sweet Home team that showed up to Husky Field on Sept. 23 was a dominant one, as the Huskies took care of business against new league rival Cottage Grove with a 26-0 win.

The victory moved the Huskies to .500 on the year, while Cottage Grove fell to 0-4.

“It was a little uglier than I was expecting, but we put it together well enough to win a football game, and at the end of the day that’s what’s most important,” said Adams. “Defensively, we knew that we could do what we did tonight, and that was take care of our job and keep points off the board. Offensively, we kind of expected to execute a little bit better, especially in that first half. But I give credit to Cottage Grove for showing up and getting them ready to play.”

After a tight game against Cascade the week before and with the road matchup against Marist coming up, the game against the Lions could have been an easy one for Sweet Home to overlook. Indeed, Adams said he was a little disappointed with his team’s level of intensity in the first half against Cottage Grove.

At half time, the coach said, “We talked a lot about respecting the game and doing what it takes to win, regardless of the opponent. We came out fired up and really ready to play last week, and we have a really tough opponent next week. And this is a trap game. So I kind of called [the Sweet Home players] out a little bit at halftime, and I thought we responded well.”

Receiver Brady Nichols also noticed a first half slump.

“I think we started off a little slow,” he said. “I think we may have gotten a little too far over our head, but we definitely cleaned it up during half time. We got yelled at a little bit, because we should have been up by more than just 14 points (Sweet Home had a 14-0 lead at the half). But (Adams) said most of it was on him for underestimating them.”

Said running back Kayo Ebbs: “I think we thought it was going to be an easy game, but even though the score was 26-0, it’s still a dogfight. I think we need to take games more seriously, going on.”

The game started out on the right foot for the Huskies as Trenton Smith returned the opening kickoff 57 yards, all the way to the Cottage Grove 24-yard line. Two subsequent runs by Jeremy Zook then secured a first down, and then Kayo Ebbs found a hole, running nine yards for Sweet Home’s first score.

“It was just a really good play call from the coaches,” Ebbs said of the touchdown. “We planned it during this week of practice, and we just executed.”

On the point-after attempt, a botched snap turned out all right for the Huskies, as Zook scrambled and threw to Nichols in the end zone for a two-point conversion, putting Sweet Home up 8-0.

The teams traded possessions until midway through the second quarter, when Nichol connected with Kaden Zajic for a 17-yard pass, and later on another nine-yarder to move the Huskies down the field. A quarterback sneak by Nichol on fourth and one kept the drive alive, before a screen pass to Nichols turned into a 34-yard touchdown play.

Nichols was in the game despite suffering a sprained shoulder the week before against Cascade.

“My shoulder’s messed up, so they put me on the outside guy so I wasn’t blocking anybody,” the receiver said of the touchdown. “I ran into the inside. I knew it was coming. The play wasn’t designed for me, but I happened just to be open.”

Nichols missed the point-after wide left, but the Huskies still secured a 14-0 lead with 2:12 left in the half.

Cottage Grove took over possession of the ball on downs at its own 18 elate in the third quarter, marching to Sweet Home’s 46, only to have senior quarterback Brayden Crump throw a ball right into the hands of Trenton Smith on fourth and three. Smith ran the ball 54 yards into the end zone, giving Sweet Home a 20-0 lead with 10:54 left in the game.

“I was in Cover Two, and I didn’t expect the ball to be thrown to me,” Smith said of the pick six. “And then I saw the ball and was like, ‘All right, I’ll get it.’ Then I ran it back.”

The point-after attempt was no good by Nichols.

An onside kick on the next play failed, and Cottage Grove started with the ball on Sweet Home’s 46. The Lions drove into the Husky red zone, but a sack by Zajic forced fourth and 12, at which point Cottage Grove elected to attempt a 31-yard field goal to try to score its first points of the season. The kick kareemed off Smith’s helmet, however, and Sweet Home’s shutout was maintained.

Getting the ball back, Nichol threw deep down the sideline to Nichols for a 37 yard completion. Runs by Zook and Ebbs moved the ball to the Cottage Grove six, and Nichol again found Nichols on a slant for a six-yard touchdown.

“Again, we had me on the outside because I can’t hit anybody,” Nichols said of the score. “And then catching it I just tried to make sure I wasn’t going to hurt my shoulder going down.”

Nichols’ point after attempt was extremely low, so Sweet Home’s lead stayed at 26-0 with 3:20 left in the game.

Another interception by Smith at Sweet Home’s 25-yard line allowed the Huskies to take a knee and end the game.

Nichols noted some fresh faces that made impacts in the win. “We had a lot of guys hurt, so we had a lot of guys who stepped up to play,” he said, mentioning sophomore wide receiver and safety Jacob Landtroop and junior wide receiver and defensive back Kaden Miller in particular. “That was really nice to see those younger guys coming in to fill in some shoes.”

Ebbs, who led the Huskies with 77 yards rushing, saw positives and some things to improve on from the game, he said.

“I think we worked well defensively, but offensively I still think we need some work,” he said. “I think we just need some more team bonding and to get our offense together.”

Smith was proud of the shutout.

“We held them to zero points,” the defensive back said. “You can never complain about that.”

But with four failed point after attempts, the kicking game certainly left much to be desired.

“That’s a work in progress,” Adams said. “We’re going to hopefully try to figure it out, because at some point that’s going to come back and win us a football game again. It’s just kids not being used to it, and needing more reps and time in practice.”

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