Football: North Eugene homecoming not sweet for Huskies

Sweet Home football fell 42-14 to non-league opponent North Eugene on Thursday, Oct. 14, before an energetic crowd of Highlander faithful celebrating their homecoming weekend.

The Huskies couldn’t answer athletic North Eugene junior quarterback Devon Anderson, who was able to move his team down the field with a mix of accurate passes and scrambling runs out of the pocket.

“It didn’t go as expected,” Husky Head Coach Ryan Adams said. “Things didn’t quite go our way very much. We played hard, but every time we got any kind of momentum, something took it away from us, whether it be a turnover on downs or a penalty.

“We had a lot of success in a lot of different things, but we couldn’t finish drives,” he continued. “We tried to throw the ball a lot more this week, but on a short week, we just couldn’t put it together enough.”

He noted his team’s struggles to finish drives: “We got in the red zone, but couldn’t put points on the board.”

He said the Husky defense was “In position to make plays, but couldn’t quite get it done. North Eugene took advantage of what we gave them and threw the ball a lot. They have some pretty good athletes, a few more athletes than Stayton had the week before.”

Adams called the Highlanders “a good football team.”

He said that success in the red zone “comes with time and reps, and buckling down when needed. A lot of it comes with maturity and playing more and more football.”

Ryans added that his team made some “mental errors” in the red zone, and is going to practice on their play near the end zone, emphasizing “the importance of finishing.”

The HIghlanders got on the board in their first possession, keeping the drive alive on fourth down with a slant route pass to senior wide receiver Nolan Wyers. Anderson again found Wyers for a five-yard touchdown pass to put his team up 7-0.

After a Sweet Home turnover on downs, North Eugene got the ball back, and senior running back Michael Warren ultimately ran for a four yard touchdown, stretching the Highlander’s lead to 14-0.

The Huskies were energized on the ensuing play, however, thanks to a long kickoff return from junior Brady Nichols. A first-down pass from junior quarterback Heath Nichol to junior wide receiver Kaden Zajic helped move the team downfield, but the Huskies eventually went four and out inside North Eugene’s 10.

The green and gold’s defense was quick to give their team the ball back, however, forcing a punt. But senior wide receiver Russ Holly fumbled after catching a screen pass, promptly returning the ball to the Highlanders with about eight minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Zajic then came up big on defense for the Huskies, batting down a pass on third down. But the Huskies were pinned deep in their own territory after a long punt from North Eugene’s Cade Johannsen. Despite this poor field position, the Husky coaching staff opted not to punt on fourth down inside their own 10. After a Highlander defender batted away a long fourth-down pass, the home team was poised for an easy score, as Anderson ran the ball into the endzone, stretching North Eugene’s lead to 21-0 with 3:30 left in the half.

Sweet Home punted on its next possession. Another slant route pass to Wyers led to a big gain, and Anderson threw a TD to senior Jack Lemley, bringing the score to 28-0.

Sweet Home climbed onto the board in the waning seconds of the first half, however, with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Nichol to Zajic, making the score 28-7 at halftime.

Sweet Home kept its offensive momentum rolling to start the second. Nichol ran for a first down and threw to Zajic for a big gain. The team managed to get the ball inside its opponent’s 10, but Anderson picked off a Nichol pass to stymie the drive.

The Huskies forced a punt on the next possession, but then Nichols fumbled.

And the ball continued to bounce around on the next possession, when senior Daniel Luttrell stripped Anderson of the ball, and defensive back Jeremy Zook picked it up.

The Huskies marched downfield and Nichol ran for a 21-yard touchdown to bring the score to 28-14 as the third quarter wound to a close.

The Huskies defense had the home team on the ropes on their next possession, forcing fourth down twice, but North Eugene was able to convert on both opportunities to keep the drive alive. Anderson ran the ball in to secure a comfortable 35-14 lead, stalling Sweet Home’s momentum.

And the green and gold went four and out on the next possession, giving the Highlanders the ball back and allowing Anderson yet another opportunity to make big plays. He threw to Nic Desrosiers for a touchdown pass, and Sweet Home’s momentum was history, as the scoreboard read 42-14.

And just in case Anderson hadn’t done enough to send the home crowd into a frenzy, he intercepted another Nichol pass, giving his team the ball again. The game would peter out soon thereafter, as North Eugene sealed a 42-14 win.

Zajic said the game was “disappointing” for his squad, with the defense struggling as a result of “not being aggressive.”

Nichols said the game “wasn’t what we expected. We were expecting it to be a dogfight.”

He did credit his team for stepping into unfamiliar roles, however. Nichols himself had to sit half the game due to two broken fingers injured in the previous week against Stayton.

“We had new guys in, guys who usually play JV,” he said. “They stepped up and did a really good job.”

Sweet Home now turns its attention to Woodburn, 4-3 overall and 1-2 in league. The Bulldogs suffered a 37-0 loss at Stayton, however, a team that the Huskies played much more tightly.

“I think Woodburn’s a team we can compete with and potentially beat,” Adams said. “They beat us last year, so the kids are going to be excited for the rematch. We have a chip on our shoulder.”

The game takes place at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, at Woodburn.

Sweet Home, 3-4 overall and 1-1 in league, currently sit behind Cascade and Stayton in the league standings, but ahead of Woodburn and Newport.

Game Summary

Sweet Home 0 7 7 0 – 14

North Eugene 14 14 0 14 – 42

First Quarter

NE – Wyers pass. Johannsen kick.

NE – Warren run. Johannsen kick.

Second Quarter

NE – Anderson run. Johannsen kick.

NE – Lemley pass. Johannsen kick.

SH – Zajic 30 pass. Holly kick.

Third Quarter

SH – Nichol 21 run. Holly kick.

Fourth Quarter

NE – Anderson run. Johannsen kick.

NE – Desrosiers pass. Johannsen kick.

Individual Statistics

Rushing – SH: Nichol 148-17; Luttrell 16-7.

Passing – SH: Nichol 12-23-2-160.

Receiving – SH: Zajic 3-74; Nichol 3-38; Smith 3-37; Luttrell 1-8; Holly 2-3.