Huskies find their stride against Elmira, 64-20

Scott Swanson

Although some of the crowd Friday night may have wanted a little revenge over Elmira, for Sweet Home’s football team it was basically business as usual as the Huskies rolled over the Falcons 64-20.

The win – the fourth straight for Sweet Home after two losses to open the 2012 campaign, leaves the Huskies 2-0 in league as they await a visit from La Pine Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at Husky Field.

Amid occasional hoots from spectators calling for a “double reverse,” a reference to the play the Falcons ran against Sweet Home last year as the clock ran down, resulting in a last-second touchdown in a 39-22 win, the Huskies stayed on a game plan that featured sweeps by Spencer Knight and power runs up the middle by Wade Paulus, who finished with 248 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries. Knight added 110 yards on 13 rushes, most in the first half, with another touchdown. Cole Horner connected on four of eight passes, hitting Colton Holly and Mitch Keenon for touchdowns through the air.

With some help from teammates, Spencer Knight sweeps around the corner on his way to 118 yards on 13 carries.

“We did a pretty good job of spreading the ball around,” Coach Dustin Nichol said. “The defense came up big with some stops.”

Senior Trever Olson said the Huskies’ defensive improvement is the result of “hard work.”

“We’ve been all coming together,” he said. “We’ll get better as the weeks go by. Our offense is probably the best we’ve seen. We’ve gotta thank the Lord for that.”

Sweet Home scored on its first four possessions, leading 35-14 at halftime.

Horner hit Holly with a 10-yard scoring pass less than four minutes into the game to get the Huskies on the scoreboard. After a four-yard touchdown run from Paulus, the Falcons got their first score on the final play of the first quarter as Mikey Langer hit Jessep Fay with a 22-yard touchdown pass.

Horner responded with another touchdown toss, this one from 16 yards out to Keenon. After that it was mostly about running as Paulus and Knight scored on runs of 28 and five yards to finish out the half after Fay caught another touchdown throw from Langer, this one for 19 yards.

In the second half, the Huskies really began to wear the visitors down and their defense forced four turnovers, starting with a fumble recovery by Austin Horner that ended the Falcons’ opening drive of the third quarter.

Paulus scored on a runs 22-yard run on Sweet Home’s first play following that turnover, and added another touchdown run of 26 yards later in the third period to extend Sweet Home’s lead to 49-14.

Then then linebacker David Miller stepped in front of a Langer pass midway through the fourth quarter with a 58-yard interception return for yet another score.

“It just presented itself and I grabbed it and ran it back,” said Miller, a senior who transferred in from Bend at the beginning of this year. He said coming to a new school has been a “challenge” and he enjoyed the opportunity he got Friday night.

“I just saw the ball coming towards the receiver there and I thought, ‘I think I’ve got a shot at this’ and somehow I got there and brought it back. I just thought, ‘Don’t get tackled.’”

Nichol noted that it was Sweet Home’s second interception returned for a touchdown in as many games.

“That was good for David, good for him to get that,” he said.

Jacob Smith and Hunter Jutte made all of Sweet Home’s point-after kicks and Colton Holly scampered for a two-point conversion at the end of the game on a fumbled exchange, to make the Huskies perfect on points-after.

In the second quarter Smith showed what kind of leg he has after the Huskies got backed up 15 yards on a penalty. He merely boomed a 32-yard field-goal-sized point-after kick straight through the uprights that appeared it could easily have gone another 20 yards and still cleared the bar.

Sweet Home only punted three times during the game.

Coaches started inserting back-ups, led by Holly at quarterback, in the fourth quarter and Kyler Gaskey scored the Huskies’ last touchdown, running in from 13 yards out.

Nichol said he was “pretty confident” that Sweet Home could prevail against Elmira, particuarly, since the Falcons were missing two of their top running backs, one to injury and another to a suspension.

“The question was who was going to be there,” he said. “We’d heard rumors but I’ve heard them before. You kind of take that for what it’s worth.”

The Husky offense has been doing “fairly well,” he said, as it has averaged 367 yards per game on the ground over the last four contests, but there have hiccups in other areas.

This week, the Huskies came together better on three fronts – offense, defense and special teams, Nichol said.

“Special teams was 100 percent,” he said. “That was one thing we tried to focus on: trying to get all three apsects of the game together, to put an entire game together.”

The improvement in defense was evident in the turnovers, he said.

“It was a good coming-out party in all three aspects of the game.”

Paulus said the Huskies made a turn-around after their initial losses to Redmond and Banks.

“There’s two things you can do when you lose,” he said. “Nichol preaches you can get mad or you can get motivated. Our team took the path to get motivated and we worked hard from those two losses. And we don’t ever want to lose that bad again. That’s what we’re working for.”

La Pine will arrive Thursday with speed. The Hawks won the state 4A track and field championship last spring, mostly on points from sprint and jumping events. Senior running back Jeremy Derosiers is one of the top 4A jumpers and sprinters in the state.

La Pine is 2-4 after opening with wins over lower-division Chiloquin and Oakridge, followed by losses to Ridgeview, Redmond’s brand new 4A high school (57-30), Burns (55-0), Junction City (45-12) and Cottage Grove (75-14).

Nichol said he’s a “little nervous” due to the short week before Thursday’s game and the fact that it’s Homecoming.

“Guys can get caught up in the hype,” he said. “We just want to focus on what our job is: winning a football game. We want the guys to enjoy it but the culmination of Homecoming is to win that game. La Pine has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

“But as long as we take care of business, we should be able to put them away.”

Paulus said the Huskies are playing to win.

“We’re motivated to win and that’s what makes our team good this year,” he said. “We don’t quit. There’s no quit in us. It all starts on the practice field. If you don’t practice well you won’t play well.”

It’s all about teamwork and leadership, he said.

“Our seniors, we’ve come together and talked. We need to practice good, keep improving every day and not go backwards.

“This year there’s so much more of a bond. We’ve all been playing together since we could walk. When we’re on the field there’s that relationship that Nichol preaches. We know what each other going to do. We know we don’t have to cover for someone else. Just have to worry about what we have to do because we know that the guy next to us is going to do the job.”

Scoring Summary

Sweet Home 14 21 14 15 — 64

Elmira 7 7 0 6 — 20

First quarter

SH: Colton Holly 10 pass from Cole Horner (Hunter Jutte kick); 8:36

SH: Wade Paulus 4 run (Jutte kick); 4:19

E: Jessep Fay 22 pass from Mikey Langer (Fay kick); 0:00

Second quarter

SH: Mitch Keenon 16 pass from Horner (Jacob Smith kick); 11:03

E: Fay 19 pass from Langer (Tahajo Wilson kick); 8:43

SH: Paulus 28 run (Smith kick); 6:03

SH: Spencer Knight 5 run (Smith kick); 0:35

Third quarter

SH: Paulus 22 run (Smith kick); 9:16

SH: Paulus 26 run (Smith kick); 6:54

Fourth quarter

SH: David Miller 58 interception return (Smith kick); 7:45

E: Fay 9 pass from Langer (kick failed); 4:52

SH: Kyler Gaskey 13 run (Holly run); 1:51

Individual statistics

Rushing: Sweet Home 40-427, Wade Paulus 20-248, Spencer Knight 13-110, Kyler Gaskey 4-39, Jacob Smith 2-14, Trever Olson 1-14, Kevin Seiber 1-2. Elmira 40-164, Brent Wolkersdorfer 16-67, Bo Highburger 9-46, Nicholas Boykin 4-45, Tahajo Wilson 7-19, Gary Younce 1-2, Mikey Langer 0-0, Team 2-(-15);

Passing: Sweet Home — Cole Horner 4-8-0-47, Colton Holly 1-1-0-37. Elmira — Langer 9-16-2-166.

Receiving: Sweet Home — Mitch Keenon 2-41, Austin Rice 1-37, Holly 1-10, Knight 1-(-4). Elmira — Mikah Reed 3-60, Fay 3-50, Wilson 3-46.