Huskies let North Valley escape with victory

Brett King

For The New Era

Sweet Home’s football team had a 7-0 over the North Valley Knights at the end of the three quarters Friday night, but the visitors turned up the heat in the final period, scoring two touchdowns and escaping with a 13-7 victory.

“It was just one of those deals we let slip out of our hands,” said Coach Dustin Nichol. “We had many opportunities to win this game, but each time we just let it slip by us. The same goes for our last losses.”

The Huskies got off to a rough start in the first quarter, as running back Spencer Knight had to go to the emergency room after injuring his ankle. Knight will be wearing a boot and is expected to be out of action Friday, Sept. 27, as Sweet Home opens its league campaign against Sisters – its fifth straight home game – before heading out on the road for the first time this season.

Knight has been suffering from pain in his ankle most of the season, Nichol said. He was held out of practice most of the week before the game with North Valley.

“He came to practice Thursday evening before the game, telling us he seemed to be feeling better and thought he could play,” Nichol said, “Since he was out until Thursday, we were able to get a lot of practice in with our other running backs, which came in handy after he left to the emergency room during the game.”

Nearing the end of a nearly scoreless first half for both teams, the Huskies attempted a field goal at the Knights’ 11-yard line with 6:00 left on the clock. Hunter Jutte’s kick missed by just a few feet.

Then, with 30 seconds left in the first half, Sweet Home got a break when Cole Horner picked up a fumble dropped by North Valley’s quarter back Gary Jantzer at the Knights’ 6-yard line.

Sweet Home had a rough time breaking through North Valley’s defense to get into the end zone for the first points of the game, but with five seconds left on the clock, JT Weld snaked his way around the right hand side for a one-yard scoring run. The Huskies were up 7-0 going into the second half after Jutte kicked the extra point.

After a scoreless third quarter, Sweet Home quarterback Cole Horner injured his knee as the game entered the final period, giving the visitors what appeared to be a shot of confidence.

Junior Cole Ashcraft came on in place of Horner.

“When I saw Horner go down and was told I’d be going in,” Ashcraft said. “The first thing that went to my head was, ‘Oh man, what am I going to do? What plays do we do?’ But in the end I ended up doing OK.”

But things went downhill for Sweet Home as North Valley’s Jordan Hannah caught a 12-yard pass from Robbie Stalford to tie the game with 8:33 left.

Then, on Sweet Home’s first offensive play following the visitors’ score, Brandon Keenon’s pass attempt was picked off at Sweet Home’s 48 yard line.

North Valley inched down the field with three first downs up to the six yard line. Hannah caught another six-yard pass in the end zone from Stalford. The Knights’ missed their extra point, but were up 13-7with 3:42 left in the final quarter.

Ashcraft got the Huskies back in striking range with a 30-yard pass to Jutte, bringing them up to the nine yard line for a first down and goal. But a personal foul call on Sweet Home set them back 10 yards and Ashcraft’s final two passes fell incomplete in the end zone and North Valley took over with 30 seconds left, running out the clock.

“He did extremely well,” Nichol said of Ashcraft’s performance, “There was a bunch of pressure on him. I mean, if he was able to recover from being down by six points with just a portion of the fourth quarter left, that’d be something you see in the movies. He was close, though.”

Horner will be seeing the sports medicine doctor about his knee injury this week.

“We are very optimistic about it,” Nichol said, “We’re hoping it’s just a bruise or something minor like that.”

Meanwhile, he said, the Huskies played well in some aspects of the game, just not where it counted on the scoreboard.

“We had a great performance by our defense and our special teams,” Nichol said. “But we had a lot of trouble on our offense with the communication between the quarterback and the receivers.”

Horner finished four of 11 for 20 yards through the air, and Ashcraft completed four of seven for 46.

The fact that the Huskies held North Valley scoreless for much of the game was a credit to the defense, but even that could have been better, said lineman Ben Terry, one of the defensive leaders.

“Our defense did excellent,” he said, “Although we did make a lot of arm tackles. We just have to settle down and make a better base.”

Nichol said it’s time for the Huskies to focus on the future.

“As a coach, of course I want to get out there and watch my team win every single game,” he said. “But even though we lost a majority of our preseason games, I know we’re ready to come out and get some wins in league. We purposely picked these hard teams to go up against to get us pumped and ready to play at high speed when league comes.

“I told the guys that we have 30 seconds to remember our loss against North Valley. After that 30 seconds, you forget about it and focus entirely on league. We’re going to take it one game at a time.”

Sweet Home, 1-3 thus far, willl go into league play 0-0, and will host Sisters at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. The Outlaws have lost four straight, to Mcloughlin (21-7), Burns (33-14), Madras (31-20) and Cascade (48-10).

“I’m optimistic about a win against Sisters,” Nichol said, “It’s definitely a game we can win – regardless of our injuries.”

Scoring Summary

North Valley 13, Sweet Home 7

NV – 0 0 0 13 – 13

SH – 0 7 0 0 – 7

Second quarter

SH – JT Weld 1 run. Jutte kick.

Fourth quarter

NV – Jordan Hannah 12 pass from Robbie Stalford. Kick.

NV – Hannah 6 pass from Stalford. Kick failed.

Rushing – Sweet Home total rushing: 144 yards. North Valley total rushing: 197.

Passing – Sweet Home: Cole Horner 4-11-0- 20; Cole Ashcraft 3-7-0-46. North Valley: Gary Jantzer 2-7-0-46; Robbie Stalford 7-12-0-60.

Receiving – Sweet Home: Hunter Jutte 1-30; Eric Flierl 3-16; Branden Keenon 2-11; Austin Rice 1-9.