Huskies score twice, hold Elmira for key Homecoming win


October 18, 2016

DAN VIRTUE sets sail for the end zone on a breakaway run that gave the Huskies their first score against Elmira.

Sweet Home seniors Keanu Aiona and Daniel Virtue keyed the Husky offense and defense on Homecoming and Senior Night, leading Sweet Home to a tough 13-10 win over Elmira, which had one loss coming into the game.

“This was huge, said Head Coach Dustin Nichol. “We set the tone to go into the playoffs. Now we can talk about the playoffs. We win next week and we have got an opportunity to go into the playoffs and extend our season. Tonight, this was a squeaker, we have had Elmira’s number for four years in a row, and I think they are getting tired of seeing us – especially this close of a game.”

The Falcons scored first after a 0-0 stalemate in the first quarter.

With 11:47 to go in the second quarter Hayden Parker took a dive up the middle 12-yards for the touchdown, giving Elmira a 7-0 lead.

The Falcons were set to kick a field goal with on fourth-and-5 with three minutes to go, butgot a Delay-of-Game penalty and an Unsportsmanlike personal foul that moved them out of field goal range, effectively stalling their momentum.

“It’s Homecoming, Senior Night, a bunch of stuff on the line,” Nichol said. “The kids were feeling the pressure. We normally have speeches before the game, but I did that last night to try to take away some of the emoting so they could just focus on the game. I think that helped,”

On the ensuing drive, Sweet Home was helped with a pass interference penalty that moved the chains for the Huskies. After two runs got stopped at the line of scrimmage quarterback Virtue dropped back on third-and-11, felt pressure coming right up the middle, but stepped up in the pocket and outraced the defenders down the sideline for a 67-yard touchdown with 1:04 to go in the half.

“Their line got a big push, but our line held their blocks and kept pushing them back the other way, which made a huge lane for me, and Colton Smith got a break block (What’s a “break block?” I would have anticipated him saying “great block” ) on their defensive back,” said Virtue.

Nichol said his senior quarterback has also progressed, showing composure in nasty conditions.

“I thought Dan did a really good job reading and dffferent things with the weather,” the coach said. “You could tell we had a couple of dropped passes.”

On third-and-4 for Virtue picked off an Elmira pass with 22 seconds to go in the half.

With eight seconds left to go in the half on second-and-2 he hooked up with Aiona for a 48-yard touchdown as time expired. The ball was perfect and the route was perfect. After Elmira went offside on the PAT attempt, the Huskies decided to go for two, but Hayden McDonald got stuffed in the middle, leaving the score at 13-7.

“Oh yeah, he [Virtue] had a heck of a game. Our practice this week went insanely well, he’s starting to feel comfortable with these linemen and trust them. He just had a great game on both sides of the ball, two touchdowns one running one passing and two interceptions, I don’t know how many tackles he had but he had a heck of a game,” NIchol said.

“He was trying to face guard me and I got a little separation, it was a heck of a ball and I just ran under it,” said Aiona.

“He -LESS-THAN-00178-Aiona-GREATER-THAN-00178- did a great job running underneath it, I saw the corner kind of jump it so the safety had to get over there and get him so I just threw it and he did a good job of catching it and running it in,” said Virtue.

“They were playing press coverage, and I knew if we could get some time for the deep ball, and not a better time to do it than with no time left on the clock. I couldn’t draw it up in the sand any better then what they did right there,” said Nichol.

In the second half, the Falcons connected on one field goal, but the Sweet Home defense stifled them opponent for most of the quarter until the last minutes of the game.

Devin Vestal came in as quarterback in the game and Elmira coaching staff didn’t look comfortable throwing the ball with Vestal until they absolutely had to. Late in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.

The game came down to one drive.

Elmira got the ball with 1:33 to go on its own 35-yard line. The Falcons started the drive off with a 15-yard run by Elmira. With 25 seconds to go, the Falcons’ ballcarrier got tackled but the Aiona got called for a personal foul penalty that moved the ball up to the 18-yard line. The clock was wound and started ticking away Elmira’s chance to win the game. The Falcons snapped the ball with 13 seconds on the clock, but Elmira’s ballcarrier was tackled in the field of play and no timeouts left. Time expired and the Huskies emerged victorious.

“It’s special,” Aiona said. “I never thought this night would come but it did and we got the win. It is pretty much indescribable; I know I am never going to play on this field again and its really satisfying to say I won my Senior Night and Homecoming,”

Nichol said his defense did “a great job.

“You can’t ask for anything more. They learned from their experience at Junction City. That was a warm-up to these guys. Kudos to the defense, and the offense did enough to win us the game.”

He said it was up to his players to decide how the game was going to go.

“I told them last night, ‘You can start a tradition at any point in the season. Right now, you have two games that you have won on Husky field. You can start a tradition of going undefeated on for Homecoming. It is all about finding something to hang your hat on and find pride in when you don’t have that much going on.’

“I said, “Let’s just start with that,’ and they have done that. So, they have two games on Husky field that they are going to leave on a two-game home winning streak, won on Homecoming, which hasn’t happened the last two years. So, they’re leaving a legacy.”

Next up for the Huskies is a road game at Sisters, coming off a 42-19 win at home against Junction City. Johnny Gurney ran for three touchdowns and Jacob Stevens added two more on runs of 34 and 45 yards for the Outlaws.

“Now our focus is lets go win one, earn a spot for the playoffs. That’s the heart cry for this week: Earn your way into the playoffs.”

The Outlaws are strong up the middle, Nichol said.

“I’ll have to go back and look at film and see how they played against Sutherlin and Cottage Grove, kind of see what they did to get some success there.

“We can’t live inside with a steady dose of running between the tackles. That is what we really need to work on: better blocking out of our receivers, better efficiency when Dan gets back there and plants his back foot, timing routes and our receivers getting off of blocks.

“Success breeds confidence.Coming off that win over at Sutherlin, I mean Sutherlin isn’t a top-10- ranked team, but that game could have easily been 48 instead of the 26 that we scored. They saw, again, the little twist here, turn there and we get things fixed up, and tonight we did better on that against a better team.”

Scoring Summary

SH 0 13 0 0 – 13

E 0 7 0 3 – 10

2nd Quarter

E—Hayden Parker 12-yard run (PAT Good) 11:47

SH—Daniel Virtue 67-yard run (PAT Good) 1:04

SH Virtue 48-yard Pass to Keanu Aiona 00:00

4th Quarter

EL—39-yard FG by Devin Vestal

KEANU AIONA looks for running room.


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