Football: Sweet Home can’t stop Stayton as visitors roll to 42-28 win

Benny Westcott

By Benny Westcott

Of The New Era

The Stayton Eagles prevailed 42-28 over the Huskies on Friday, Oct. 8, winning a high-scoring afshootout during Sweet Home’s homecoming weekend.

The result brought the Huskies to .500 on the season with a 3-3 record, 1-1 in league. Stayton moved to 2-4 on the year, 1-0 in league.

“We knew (Stayton) was a lot better than their record,” said Head Coach Ryan Adams, citing the Eagles’ tough non-league schedule. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, a dog fight.”

Sweet Home made a few too many mistakes as flags flew in abundance through the cool night air. The Huskies racked up 11 penalties, setting them back 100 yards in total.

Adams chalked up the string of penalties to “excitement.”

“It was a huge game for us,” he said.

The majority of his team’s fouls, he added, were because the boys were going “too fast, too quick.” He estimated that five of the 11 penalties were false starts.

Sweet Home’s offense was unable to use the run game to make many dents in Stayton’s big defensive line. The Eagles’ roster included 18 linemen weighing 200 pounds or more, eight of them 250 pounds and above.

The hosts had only 18 rushing yards on actual run plays, not counting junior quarterback Heath Nichol’s scrambles from the pocket for 46 yards of ground gains.

“Looking back, we were about one guy away – it was a different guy every time – or one assignment away from running the ball more effectively,” Adams said. He noted that a majority of blockers didn’t keep their eyes up or sustain enough blocks.

With Sweet Home outsized on the line, the Huskies tried to “pull” linemen, a tactic that involves one lineman running around another and assuming a new blocking assignment, “giving our smaller guys the advantages in angles.”

“Obviously, it didn’t work,” Adams said. “It’s tough when two of our guys aren’t the same size as one of theirs.”

While the coach noted that “We didn’t run the ball very well,” he commended Nichol’s passing game.

“We took what they gave us,” Adams said. “They took away our running game, so we used our wide receiver play makers and took the numbers we had out there to be more effective through the air.”

Sweet Home’s defense focused on double-teaming 6-foot-2 senior receiver Nick Frith, a tactic Adams had seen Astoria use against Stayton in game footage while preparing for Friday.

“I give credit to them,” he said of Stayton’s offense. “They were good enough to make plays.”

He said that junior quarterback Cody Leming did a good job adding necessary extra time to find receivers, and that Sweet Home’s defensive line wasn’t able to break down the pocket to pressure him.

In the second half, the Husky defense “stacked the box” more often, as safeties moved closer to the line of scrimmage and senior Daniel Luttrell moved from prioritizing passing coverage to becoming an outside linebacker.

After the game, junior wide receiver Kaden Zajic said that his team’s energy flagged in the third quarter, and that his squad could work on becoming more aggressive.

Sophomore center Ryker Hartsook, who was clearly half the size of some of the players he was blocking, said that his line, faced with squaring against bigger opponents, focused on “just controlling what we could control.”

“I was hoping we would win,” said senior lineman Colby Gazeley. “We tried really hard. On the line we did OK. We figured some things out, like who to hit and where to go properly.”

After the Huskies’ opening drive was stymied in a first possession that included two false-start penalties, Luttrell punted the ball to Stayton’s 24-yard line. The Eagles proceeded to fumble the ball on their very first offensive play, as a Sweet Home defender stripped it, allowing the Husky offense to take over again, this time with much more favorable field possession.

The team capitalized on the opportunity, closing the remainder of the field before Luttrell finished the drive with a short touchdown run, giving Sweet Home a 7-0 lead.

Sweet Home stopped the Eagles again, forcing a punt. But the Huskies came up empty on their next drive, and a short punt gave Stayton the ball at the beginning of Husky territory.

The Eagles drove to inside Sweet Home’s 20-yard line, but the Huskies claimed another turnover, as senior lineman Charlie Crawford forced a fumble that was recovered by Gazely, at the 16.

Sweet Home made a first down on its next possession when Nichol found junior wide receiver Brady Nichols on third, but the team then went three-and-out and was forced to punt.

Stayton would land on the scoreboard on its next possession early in the second quarter, with multiple passes from Leming to Frith, including a touchdown.

Sweet Home extended its next drive with a defensive-pass interference call on a third-down throw to Nichols. On an ensuing play Zajik broke free after catching a pass on a slant route, sprinting all the way to Stayton’s 15.

The very next play saw Nichol connect with Nichols on a screen pass, and the junior receiver evaded tacklers on the way to the end zone, giving his team a 14-7 lead halfway through the second quarter.

But then it was Stayton’s turn to score, erasing Sweet Home’s lead. Leming scrambled and ran to the 11 on third down to keep the drive alive, then on another play passed to Frith, who was dropped at the 1-yard line. Eventually, running back Eli Brown ran in from inside the one to tie things up at 14-14.

The Huskies were forced to punt again, and Stayton drove downfield, ending its drive on another touchdown run by Brown, giving the Eagles a 21-14 lead at halftime.

Stayton’s first possession of the second half was cut short when senior defensive back Jacob Ingram broke up a long pass on third down.

Sweet Home took over on Stayton’s 48, and Nichols went long as Nichol found him on a pass. Nichols caught the ball in traffic and evaded a tackle, running into the end zone and tying the game at 21-21 in front of a lively home crowd of Husky supporters.

But Stayton answered quickly, when Brown found a hole on a handoff, running into the end zone for a 28-21 lead.

Stayton had favorable field position after recovering an onside kick. It would have good field position again on its next drive, when Frith intercepted a Nichols-bound pass from Nichol. Starting on Sweet Home’s 48, the Eagles handed off to Brown several times as they marched downfield. A touchdown pass capped the drive, which stretched the lead to 35-21 late in the third.

Sweet Home extended a fourth-quarter possession on a roughing-the-passer call against Stayton on a fourth-and-10 play. The Huskies faced fourth down again in Eagle territory, but Nichol found Zajic on fourth-and-nine for a touchdown pass that brought the score to 35-28 with 10 minutes remaining.

But the Huskies couldn’t hold Stayton on an all-important defensive possession. The Eagles scored on a touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Travis King, going up 42-28. Stayton stopped Sweet Home on its next possession and ran out the clock, sealing its first league win.

Sweet Home travels to North Eugene for a non-league contest at 7 p.m. Oct. 14. Now 2-2 overall, the Highlanders claimed one game on a forfeit; and their other was a 35-14 victory over Crook County. Two of their contests have been canceled thanks to quarantines.


Sweet Home 7 7 7 7

Stayton 0 21 14 7

First Quarter

SH – Luttrell 3 run. Holly kick.

Second Quarter

ST – Frith pass. Unknown kick.

SH – Nichols 15 pass. Holly kick

ST – Brown run. Unknown kick.

ST – Brown run. Unknown kick.

Third Quarter

SH – Nichols 51 pass. Holly kick.

ST – Brown run. Unknown kick.

ST – Unknown pass. Unknown kick.

Fourth Quarter

SH – Zajic 34 pass. Holly kick.

ST – King pass. Unknown kick.

Individual Statistics

Rushing – SH: Nichol 46-7; Luttrell 18-10; Nichols 0-1.

Passing – SH: Nichol 11-20-1-227.

Receiving – SH: Zajic 6-131; Nichols 4-93; Holly 1-3.