Huskies start fast in playoff win over La Grande

The Sweet Home football staff knew the Huskies had to get off to a good start in the opening round of the state playoffs against La Grande at Husky Stadium.

And a fast start it was that ignited Sweet Home to a 27-7 win over the Tigers and allowed them to move on to the second round against fourth-ranked Douglas in Roseburg next Friday.

“Good starts are very important,” explained head coach Rob Younger. “We created momentum at the beginning of both halves.”

At first, it seemed like the first-quarter hex would continue as La Grande used its ground game to move steadily down the field on the Tigers’ opening drive. However, Levi Marchbanks, who recorded a team-high 14 tackles, recovered a fumble at the Husky 15-yard line to close that door.

Marchbanks noted the impact that the turnover had.

“It was kind of a change in momentum,” he said. “I don’t know who stripped the ball, but we work on that at practice.”

Then the Huskies came back with that determination to set an early impression. With two 12-yard runs by Brent Moyer, some key passes by Tyler Holly, and three La Grande penalties, the Huskies drew first blood with a Moyer three-yard run.

After the Tigers went empty on their second possession, the Huskies kept the pressure on. They went on another 13-play drive, this time using the airways at critical times. Four times on third or fourth down, Holly found open receivers. Holly capped it off with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller, only his second catch of the year, both for touchdowns.

“Our team just made big plays when we had to,” said Holly. “That just comes through practice.”

Younger reiterated the importance of the big play, especially at this time of the year.

“We need to be playmakers,” Younger stated. “Tonight we made plays on both sides of the ball, which was the difference in the ball game.”

LaGrande’s offense came back to life one time in the second quarter. Of the Tigers’ 14 plays, 13 were on the ground, primarily using Walker Hudkins, who wasn’t even a starter. The 235-pound Hudkins finished off the lone Tiger touchdown from a yard out.

As has often been the case for Sweet Home this year, the Huskies scored on their opening drive of the second half. Eight times Holly completed passes on third or fourth down, two of them on this possession. The final 40 yards was on a deftly thrown ball that Sean Potter caught in stride for a 40-yard score, his 12th touchdown reception this year.

Holly completed 14 of his 22 passes for 176 yards while Potter was on the receiving end of five of them for 108 yards.

For the rest of the game, the Husky defense kept the Tigers in check, forcing them to give up the ball twice on downs.

Besides Marchbanks, Tim McDowell contributed 10 tackles from his safety slot while Moyer and interior linemen Steven Baugus and Cody Felkins each had seven stops.

The Huskies scored once more in the fourth quarter on a 33 run by McDowell on a sweep. McDowell, a flanker, led the Huskies in rushing with 58 yards in seven carries. Running back and linebacker Brock Cota missed his second game with an ankle injury and it is still unclear whether he will return to the lineup this Friday.

The undefeated Trojans of Douglas will present problems that La Grande could not duplicate. After a slow start defensively in the first two games, Douglas has held its opponents to 14 points or less seven times in its next eight games. On offense they average 34 points a game. The Trojans were well-represented at the La Grande game, with several coaches in the crowd scouting the Huskies.

But the Husky coaches are just concerned about playing their game.

“Our kids have to stay within the system and make the plays,” said Younger. “That’s what it takes to win playoff games.”

“We have to come ready to play and play our game,” agreed Holly. “We have to jump on them early. We can’t make turnovers against a team like this.”

1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final

Sweet Home 7 7 6 7 27

LaGrande 0 7 0 0 7

1st Quarter

SH: Brent Moyer 3 yd. run (Alex Santana kick)

2nd Quarter

SH: Zach Miller 9 yd. pass from Tyler Holly (Santana kick)

LaG: Walker Hudkins 1 yd. run (Noah Sophie kick)

3rd Quarter

SH: Potter 40 yd. pass from Holly (run failed)

4th Quarter

SH: Tim McDowell 33 yd. run (Santana kick)

Team Stats

Rushing: Sweet Home 28-117; LaG 42-217

Passing: Sweet Home 14-22-1, 176; LaG 6-11, 77

Sacked: SH 1-6; LaG: 5-23

Total Offense: Sweet Home 287; LaG 271

First Downs: Sweet Home 13; LaG 17

Tackles for Losses: Sweet Home 10; LaG 4

3rd/4th Down Conversions: Sweet Home 10-16; LaG 6-12

Penalties: SH 7-45; LaG 7-76.5

Turnovers: SH 1; LaG 1

Individual Stats

Rushing: SH: McDowell 7-58; Moyer 18-49; Holly 2-9; Sorenson 1-1

LaG: Hudkins 16-83; Miller 13-69; Humphreys 4-33

Passing: SH: T.Holly 14-22-1, 176

LaG: Miller 6-11, 77

Receiving: SH: Potter 5-108; Marchbanks 4-20; Tagle 2-29;

McDowell 1-12; Miller 1-9; Moyer 1-(-2)

LaG: Powell 2-47; Jacobs 2-16

Kickoffs: SH: Santana 3-89; net 27.5; Avg starting yd. line: 32.5

Coakley 2-83, 25 net; Avg start line: 35

LaG: Sophie 2-84; 32 net; Avg start line: 37.5

Kick Returns: SH: Bidwell 1-16; McDowell 1-8

LaG: 4-54 (13.5)

Punts: SH: Coakley 2-69, 34.5, net 34.5; LaG: Humphry 2-55, net 22.5

Punt Returns: SH: Bidwell 1-10; LaG: 2-0

Interceptions: SH: None; LaG 1

Fumble Recoveries: SH 1 (Marchbanks); LaG: 0

Sacks: SH 5-23 (Marchbanks/Baugus 1.5, Coleman, Whitfield,); LaG: 1-6

SH Tackles: Marchbanks 14, McDowell 10, Moyer/Baugus/Felkins 7