Sweet Home football stifled by tough Cascade team

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home football got a rude awakening to what life’s like in Special District 3 on Friday, losing 42-0 at home against an undefeated Cascade team in their first foray into league play this year. The Huskies are still searching for their first win in the young season.

Sweet Home forced a fumble on Cascade’s first drive and recovered it at the Cougar 26. But the Huskies were unable to capitalize on the short field position, turning over the ball on downs at the Cascade 10 yard line.

On Cascade’s next drive, sophomore Bryce Kuenzi ran for a 87 yard touchdown that was called back on a holding penalty. Then Sweet Home senior defensive lineman Nathan Aker made two straight tackles to stall Cascade’s offense.

But Sweet Home would give the ball right back when sophomore linebacker Morrisen Craig picked off Sweet Home sophomore quarterback Austin Welch on third down. The Cougars then found the end zone on a seven yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Nolan Abrams to junior tight end Jeremiah Butts to go up 7-0 with 1:56 left in the first quarter.

Sweet Home went three and out on its next possession before Abrams found senior wide receiver Karsten Sande for a 15 yard touchdown pass. The extra point attempt never left the ground, and Cascade went up 13-0 with 9:57 left in the second quarter.

Sweet Home’s next possession was stalled severely when a snap went over Welch’s head, resulting in a 21 yard loss. That helped give the Cougars great field position to start their next drive, as Cascade took over at Sweet Home’s 30. Kuenzi promptly ran for a 29 yard gain and punched the ball in two plays later. Then Abrams threw to senior tight end Andrew Kirschenmann for the two-point conversion, putting Cascade up 21-0.

Sweet Home was again not able to get anything going on offense on the next drive, and Cascade took over after a punt. Kuenzi would score another touchdown on a two and a half yard run, putting Cascade up 28-0 going into halftime.

The Cougars picked up where they left off in the second half, with Kuenzi scoring on a one yard touchdown run. The point after attempt was blocked and Cascade went up 34-0 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter.

On its next drive the Huskies were pushed back by a sack and then a penalty, before a Husky was tackled in the end zone for a safety, putting the Cougars up 36-0.

On Cascade’s ensuing possession, Abrams threw to sophomore running back Matthew Hinkle for a TD. The Cougars took a knee on the point after attempt, going up 42-0 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. The game would remain that score until the final whistle as the two squads began giving their reserve players some playing time.

Sweet Home managed just 81 yards of total offense on the night, including 71 rushing and 10 passing yards. Welch went 2-6 in the aerial attack for 10 yards, and threw one interception. Junior Kayo Ebbs led Sweet Home in rushing with 50 yards on 17 attempts, while senior Gabe Caldera collected 21 yards on five attempts. Senior Kaden Miller and sophomore Bode Nichols each had five yards on one reception apiece.

Aker and Ebbs each had two sacks on defense. Aker led the team with four tackles while Ebbs had three.

“I don’t think the scoreboard is a good indicator of our performance,” Sweet Home Head Coach Ryan Adams said. “I thought the kids came out really tough. Defensively we were in a lot of good situations. We just didn’t execute enough, and they’re a good enough team, and they execute, and they’re disciplined enough to take advantage of those things.”

He was proud of certain veteran Huskies stepping up. “Our leaders continue to be leaders,” he said. “That’s been pretty awesome to see. They’re doing what it takes to put ourselves in a successful situation. It just kind of comes down to execution. But them keeping positive and their heads up and stuff is really encouraging.”

On defense he said the Huskies were in good spots to make plays but missed a few times. “That’s encouraging for us, because we can get better at those things,” he said. “It’s tough when they’re just not in spots at all. Then we’ve got a whole bigger issue.”

On offense he said “We tried to make some adjustments from week to week, and we found some adjustments we thought were going to be pretty successful for us in the run game. But then it just came down to execution, and we didn’t execute enough. We thought we had some good plays but with bad snaps and dropping the ball here and there, it’s really hard to get any momentum.”

Ebbs said “We just didn’t execute at all. I thought our practices during the week were good, but Cascade’s a top 10 team. My team and I were expecting a pretty close shootout, but obviously it didn’t go our way.”

He did credit the defense. “Our defense is always there and locking in and making plays,” he said.

Aker said of the game “It was a little rough. Their running back was tough. He’s strong and ran hard. And honestly our offensive line wasn’t dialed. We had a few moments where we were okay, but our O-line just wasn’t dialed.”

He noted that Cascade doesn’t run anything special on offense, but runs it well.

He said that the key to him getting into the backfield on a few plays against the Cougars was getting off the ball quick and working hands.

Senior linebacker Ryker Hartsook said “I think we’ve just got to stay disciplined. If we do our jobs it’s definitely a lot closer of a game. We just get too hyped up and caught up in the moment and stuff happens.”

He said “We knew what they were going to do, and we thought we matched up against them but we just didn’t stay disciplined.”

This week the Huskies hit the road to take on Cottage Grove at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22. Both teams enter the contest with an 0-3 record.