Football: Clutch defense, point-after, seal win for Huskies at Madras

Sweet Home’s football players had to cross an entire mountain range and pull out some fourth-quarter theatrics to get their second road win of the season.

On a night of offensive woes for the green and gold, it was the Huskies’ defense that ended up making the big play that helped Sweet Home eke out a 14-13 win over the White Buffalo of Madras High School on Friday, Sept. 17.

The home team looked to be fully in control of the contest with just two minutes left in the final quarter. Madras had possession on the Huskies’ 25-yard line, and Sweet Home had only one timeout remaining. But instead of running out the clock, the Madras offense elected to throw the ball, and an errant screen pass from junior quarterback Dru Boyle flew right into the hands of Husky sophomore defensive tackle Nathan Aker, who ran the ball all the way back to Madras’s 20-yard line before finally being tackled by Boyle.

And the Husky offense, which had struggled to produce all night, didn’t let this final opportunity slip away. Head Coach Ryan Adams had the boys run the ball four times, and senior running back Daniel Luttrell was able to punch the ball across the goal line on the final play of the short drive for six points. Senior Russ Holly, seven for sevem on extra-point attempts this year, knocked the ball through the uprights to give the Huskies a surprise 14-13 lead with just 40 seconds left in the game.

And it was Holly who came up big for Sweet Home again on the other end, wrestling Boyle down for a sack, as the defense forced a four-and-out to clinch the victory.

Adams credits his defense for “winning the game for us” on a night when junior quarterback Heath Nichol’s offense was unable to find a rhythm.

The Huskies were able to stop the White Buffalo from scoring in the red zone on four different occasions, and Madras’ only two touchdowns came when the team started with the ball deep in Husky territory after Sweet Home turnovers.

But it was Huskies who capitalized on a turnover to score first in the game, when Madras’ special-teams center snapped the ball over his punter’s head. The punter recovered the ball in his own end zone and was brought down at the White Buffalo’s one-yard line.

Nichol ran the ball in, giving the Huskies a 7-0 lead in the second quarter that they would take into halftime.

After Sweet Home’s defense came up with a stop after half, Nichol and Luttrell botched a hand-off and a Madras player picked up the fumble.

With the possession starting on the 20-yard line, Boyle scrambled out of the pocket on third down and found an open receiver for a touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7, a score that would remain until the fourth quarter.

Again unable to pick their way through the White Buffalo defense early in the fourth, Sweet Home attempted to punt, but the kick was blocked. Madras scooped up the ball, setting up their offense to again start deep in Sweet Home territory, at the 25-yard line.

The Husky defense forced a fourth down, but Boyle was again able to scramble and find a receiver, connecting with junior Sebastian Bisland for a go-ahead touchdown.

But Sweet Home senior Dakota Melkvik blocked Madras’ extra-point attempt, an effort that would later prove to be crucial for the Huskies, who would win the game by one point.

Adams chalked up the tough day on the offensive end to penalties, dropped passes, too-high throws and two interceptions.

Luttrell led the team in rushing with 72 yards on 20 attempts, and one touchdown. Nichol ran for 12 yards on five carries, also scoring a touchdown.

Junior Trenton Smith was the Huskies’ leading receiver, with nine yards on one reception.

Junior linebacker Kaden Zajic led the team with nine tackles. Junior defensive back Brady Nichols had eight tackles for the Huskies.

Madras fell to 1-1 on the season, while Sweet Home improved to 2-1.

This week the Huskies square off against another non-league opponent, Hidden Valley, at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24 at Husky Field.

Sweet Home also hosted Hidden Valley last spring, when the Mustangs beat the Huskies 45-6.

“They’re a good team,” Adams said of Hidden Valley. “We’ve got to get better at what we do. They got us pretty good in the spring. Our boys have a chip on their shoulder a little bit going into the rematch.”

Hidden Valley will enter the game 1-1. The team soundly beat Molalla 36-0 in their opener, but then lost a lopsided contest to now-fifth-ranked Banks the next week, 35-0.

After watching film on the Mustangs, Adams said “I think it can be a good matchup for us. The kids are excited. It’s going to be another dog fight.”