Football: Following 1-TD loss to defending league champs, Huskies to host CG

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home kept pace with defending Class 4A Special District 3 champions Cascade, but ultimately fell 22-13 to the Cougars on the road to open their league season Friday, Sept. 16.

The loss put the Huskies at 1-2 on the year, while Cascade improved to 2-1.

“It was a really fun game,” Sweet Home Head Coach Ryan Adams said. “We started out hot. The kids were jacked up and ready to go. They wanted to win – they were ready to win. We came out in the first half firing on all cylinders.”

Right from the beginning, it seemed. The Huskies scored on their first drive, culminated by a 25-yard touchdown run by quarterback Heath Nichol. But Cascade answered with its own touchdown on a two-yard run by quarterback Nolan Abrams. The Cougar kick on the point-after attempt failed to clear the line, however, so Sweet Home kept its lead at 7-6.

Sweet Home’s second drive of the game, a 17-play affair, ended with another touchdown on a Nichol five-yard run. The Huskies failed on the two-point conversion attempt, however, but still led 13-6.

When Sweet Home got the ball back for the third time, things were looking good as the green and gold marched to the Cascade 13. But a botched handoff from Nichol to Jeremy Zook resulted in a fumble, which the Cougars recovered. Cascade then assembled an impressive drive of its own, getting to the Sweet Home 16 before the Huskies’ Jacob Sieminski intercepted a pass in the waning seconds of the first half. As both teams headed to the locker room, Sweet Home still led, 13-6.

But the second half was a different story, as Sweet Home failed to score, and Cascade put up 16 points. Running back Jacob Bell broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run, and Nolan Abrams ran for a 55-yard score, both in the third quarter. The Cougars also succeeded on both two-point conversion attempts.

The Huskies were handicapped by a few players stuck on the bench.

Receiver Brady Nichols suffered a shoulder injury on the game’s fourth play, sidelining him for the rest of the contest. Lineman Huston Holly suffered a severe ankle sprain in the first half. Receiver Von James couldn’t play at all, having been called the previous week for targeting on a hit over the middle against Molalla.

“We had some unfortunate things take place that we really can’t control,” Adams said. “At halftime, we were down three of our starters on both sides of the ball, and we didn’t have enough lead in the pencil to put it together there at the end.

“It was a well-fought game,” he continued. “Both teams played hard, and we were just unfortunate to come out on the losing end of things. They did everything we thought they were going to do. We were just kind-of hurting. We knew we had opportunities to score offensively and take advantage of some mismatches athletically, but a lot of those were centered around Brady (Nichols) being available and whatnot, and obviously that didn’t happen.”

The Cougars capitalized on those missing Sweet Home pieces.

“In the second half, Cascade adjusted on our run game a bit and forced us to go through the air, because they knew our playmakers out there weren’t out there anymore, with injuries and suspensions,” Adams explained. “They did a good job adjusting, and we just couldn’t take advantage enough there at the end.”

The coach credited his defense for playing “really well” against Cascade’s quick-huddle wing-T offense.

“We knew they were a good program and a good football team, and their offense is tough to defend,” Adams said. “We did a really good job in the first half of just limiting them to six points. In the second half they had two big plays that we were snuffing out all game long, but they were able to take advantage of us being out of alignment two times.

“They go fast and they run the ball a lot in their off-tackle option type offense,” he added. “It takes a lot of discipline defensively to maintain your assignment, and you don’t ever really know who has the ball. All it takes is one guy to make a mistake, and it’s a touchdown. We knew that stopping their offense was going to be tough to do.”

However, Adams noted, the Huskies “put together a pretty good game plan, and our guys did a great job competing.”

The Huskies host another league opponent in Cottage Grove at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23. The Lions have yet to score a single point in three games this season.

“It’s another league contest that we’re excited about,” Adams said. “It’s definitely one that we think we can go get and perform well. We think if we take care of business it could be a pretty fun night for us.”

He said that in practice, the Huskies will be focusing on getting better at what they do.

“Cottage Grove runs a lot of similar stuff to what we do and have done in the past, so we feel pretty confident with being able to defend, and attack on offense,” the coach explained.

“They don’t run anything weird. It’s just kind of basic concepts and schemes, which makes the game a great opportunity for us to get better at the small things.

“This will be a great opportunity to get better at those things, so that when we face some of these really good opponents in our league like Marist Catholic, Stayton and Junction City, then we’re full steam rolling,” Adams said.

Adams expects that Nichols will be able to play Friday, as long as he can tolerate pain on his sprained shoulder. Holly is expected to be sidelined a week or two with his severe ankle sprain. James is eligible to play again after his one game suspension.