Huskies upset Douglas; quarterfinals next

Opportunity knocked Saturday afternoon and the Sweet Home Huskies answered the bell against the previously undefeated Douglas Trojans.

From the beginning of the season, no one was sure what to expect from this year’s edition of the Huskies. Not the coaches. Not the players. Not the fans. There have been moments of greatness and some not-so-great times.

But after Sweet Home’s 16-14 victory over Douglas last Saturday and their advancement to the quarterfinals against Phoenix Friday night, Nov. 27, it’s now quite clear that the Huskies are a team to be reckoned with.

“It’s the fun time of the year,” said coach Rob Younger. “Everybody is just excited about Husky football.”

The Huskies certainly provided the excitement against the Trojans, making big play after big play, a point of emphasis in Sweet Home practices.

In the Trojans’ opening drive, they moved steadily to the Husky 20-yard line with third down and three to go. That’s when the defense set the tone for the game. In their new 3-3 front alignment, the Huskies slammed the door, stopping Douglas quarterback Paul Polamalu for no gain and then Patrick Long stuffed Jered Stoffal for a three-yard loss.

The Trojan rushing attack, which averaged over 200 yards a game coming in, would have to settle for just 67 yards and only 27 from their star back, Stoffal. The new alignment, with Christian Whitfield as the nose guard and Steven Baugus and Long as the ends, controlled the gaps in the middle, which allowed linebacker stunts from different spots to confuse the Trojans.

Controlling the rush was one of four ingredients that Younger highlighted for successful football at the state level.

“It took Stoffal’s ability to cut back away,” said Brent Moyer, who was moved to a linebacker slot.

“It forced him outside, but we were able to keep him contained.”

The Husky offense had trouble moving the ball in the first quarter. It took a special teams play, the second of Younger’s four ingredients, to jump-start Sweet Home. Alex Coakley’s second punt was fumbled by Douglas and Steven Bidwell recovered the loose ball at the Trojan 36-yard line. This would be just one of the several big Husky plays on special teams.

Three running plays did most of the damage, an eight-yard run by Coakley, followed by a 15 yard break out by Moyer, and then Brock Cota’s 11 yard touchdown run. The Huskies were unable to convert on the extra point after a high snap.

The second opportunity came after the Huskies’ Zach Miller recovered a second Douglas fumble, following a Douglas pass reception. However, the Huskies were unable to take advantage when Alex Santana tried to convert a long field goal attempt from 46 yards.

Santana would get a second chance at the end of the quarter. After holding Douglas on their last possession of the first half, the Huskies also stalled. However, that gave Keenan Martin his chance to put his imprint on the game when he ran for 23 yards on a fake punt, one of his two successful attempts on that feat.

Martin has the responsibility for making those reads.

“I only make that call if I know for a fact I can get those first down yards for my team,” said Martin.

His successful decision allowed the Huskies to continue the drive and give Santana the opportunity to boot a 28-yard field goal, adding two more highlights to the special teams unit and giving the Huskies a 9-0 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Huskies were successful in chewing up time off the clock with long drives that blended the rush and pass.

“They kept us off the field, and that was a huge part of it,” Douglas Coach Joe Polamalu told the Roseburg News-Review. “We barely touched the ball in the second quarter. (Sweet Home) executed when they had to.”

After Sweet Home’s first drive ended, with 5:40 left in the third quarter, Douglas began to put up a fight, focusing on a constant barrage of short passes to the outside.

Those tactics led to a 20-yard touchdown pass from Polamalu to David Guthrie. Ricky Cortes’ run out of a split set brought the Trojans to within a single point.

But the Huskies quickly answered, using another 18-yard fake punt run by Martin, who this time called for the middle fake when the Trojans’ set took away the outside which he used before.

Sweet Home, which converted five out of six times on fourth-down attempts, made the Trojans pay on fourth and seven when Martin, who just received medical clearance to play quarterback again after missing six games, lofted a 28-yard pass to a wide-open Miller, who now has caught three passes this year, all for touchdowns.

Douglas wasted no time in getting right back in the game. Sky Woods took a lateral pass from Polamalu and then tossed the ball to David Froude, who was finally caught at the two-yard line. The Huskies nearly pulled off an improbable goal line stand by stopping the run three times. Finally, on fourth down, Polamalu completed a one-yard pass to Dontea Escalante.

The Trojans were unsuccessful on their two-point try when a pitch was fumbled, leaving the Huskies with the lead.

Sweet Home nearly put the game out of reach when Tyler Holly, who had been inactive the past two practices with a knee problem, connected with Sean Potter for 66 yards that put the Huskies on Douglas’ 13 yard line. However, Douglas held the Huskies right there after forcing Holly out of bounds at the seven on fourth down.

Sweet Home fans held their collective breath as they watched Polamalu complete four consecutive passes to get to the Husky 33. But his next two passes were unproductive, one an incompletion and the other a game-ending interception by Martin, who had to play safety for the first time because Tim McDowell was unavailable, also with a practice knee injury.

“We knew we had to play sound football,” stated Younger. “But when we had our opportunities, we had to take advantage of them.”

The Huskies certainly did that, causing three turnovers and having none of their own. A favorable turnover ratio was Younger’s third ingredient to success. The final ingredient was a solid running game. The Huskies chipped away for 164 yards on the ground to go with their 182 yards in the air.

The Huskies earned the right to play at Phoenix High School, which lost to Douglas in the first game of the season and later to North Bend.

However, Phoenix did defeat Junction City 14-8 in their opening game of the playoffs. The Huskies lost their final regular-season game to the Tigers, 43-30, coming out flat and failing to make up the two unanswered first-quarter touchdowns scored by Junction City.

Game time against Phoenix will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, at South Medford High School.

“This win just means we have a bigger game this week,” said Moyer. “We’re going to try and do the same thing and get the win.”

Martin believes the outcome will be determined by the way the Huskies prepare, the way they practice, and then the way they play.

“It’s going to come down to who wants it more,” said Martin. “We’ll fight to the end.”

If there are any doubts now, it’s not in the coaches or players’ minds.

“I just like proving everyone wrong week after week,” emphasized Martin.

Game Summary

1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final

Sweet Home 6 3 0 7 16

Douglas 0 0 8 6 14

1st Quarter

SH: Brock Cota 11 yd. run (kick failed)

2nd Quarter

SH: Alex Santana 28 yd. field goal

3rd Quarter

Doug: David Guthrie 20 yd. pass from Paul Polamalu (Ricky Cortes run)

4th Quarter

SH: Zach Miller 28 yd. pass from Keenan Martin (Santana kick)

Doug: Dontea Escalante 1 yd. pass from Polamalu (run failed)

Team Stats

Rushing: Sweet Home 37-164; Doug 16-67

Passing: Sweet Home 14-22, 182; Doug 17-24-1, 264

Sacked: SH 3-20; Doug 2-11

Total Offense: Sweet Home 326; Doug 320

First Downs: Sweet Home 15; Doug 12

Tackles for Losses: Sweet Home 4; Doug 4

3rd/4th Down Conversions: Sweet Home 8-20; Doug 4-11

Penalties: SH 3-20; Doug 6-58.5

Turnovers: SH 0; Doug 3

Individual Stats

Rushing: SH: Martin 5-52, Cota 15-52, Moyer 8-34, Coakley 5-14, Tagle 1-6, T.Holly 1-5, Bidwell 2-1

Doug: Polamalu 7-40, Stoffel 9-27

Passing: SH: T.Holly 11-17, 137; Martin 3-5, 45

Doug: Polamalu 16-23-1, 198; Woods 1-1, 66

Receiving: SH: Potter 5-91; Tagle 3-33; Marchbanks 2-17; Miller 1-28; Cota 1-5; Moyer 1-4; Coakley 1-4

Doug: Escalante 6-65; Woods 5-72; Froude 1-66

Kickoffs: SH: Santana 3-110; net 30.3; Avg starting yd. line: 29.7

Doug: Guthrie 3-154; 36.7 net; Avg start line: 23.3

Kick Returns: SH: Bidwell 1-9; Martin 1-15

Doug: 2-19

Punts: SH: Coakley 2-66, 33, net 33; Guthrie 2-81, net 40.5

Punt Returns: SH: Bidwell 1-0; Doug 1-0

Interceptions: SH: 1 (Martin); Doug 0

Fumble Recoveries: SH 2 (Bidwell, Miller); Doug 0

Sacks: SH 2-11 (Baugus, Jackson); Doug 3-20

SH Tackles: Cota/Potter 8; Baugus/Whitfield/Tagle 5