Viking opener is Knights’ nightmare

The Vikings showed a unified front as they stormed the field of their first home game with the flags of all the United States Armed Forces. (Photo by Cameron Jagoe/Siuslaw Photos)

Siuslaw football victorious in first game of season

Sept. 15, 2021 — Siuslaw’s football season began with high expectations, which came to fruition on Friday night as they beat North Valley 48-14.

Some preseason polls had the Vikings (1-0) ranked as high as #2 in the state. The team looked every bit the part as they built a 35-0 lead over the Knights (1-1) by half time.

Oregon high school football rules state that if any team takes a lead of 35 or more points in the second half, then the game will be played with a running clock. This rule was in effect for the final 24 minutes of the game and hastened a result that was never really in question after the Viks’ first drive of the game

The late summer evening’s weather on Sept. 10 was perfect, and Siuslaw’s players made a grand entrance. The entire team ran together onto the field in unison, hoisting the flags of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as they rushed the field.

Festivities then moved to a more somber note with a 13-second moment of silence to honor the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were killed during the U.S.-led evacuation mission at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. Thirteen seats in the front row of the south bleachers were left empty as a memorial to the sacrifice made by these men and women.

Siuslaw sophomore Jane Lacouture performed the National Anthem, accompanied by the stars and stripes encircling Hans Peterson Memorial Field to memorialize the 20 years since the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Kiwanis Club of Florence worked with the football team to install the flags for the first home game of the year.

The game began with visitors from North Valley, a 4A school in Grants Pass, traveling with a small, but boisterous, group of loyal fans who spread out in the visitor’s bleachers on the north side of the field.

Their enthusiasm was quickly dampened when senior Beau Erickson hit Braydon Thornton with a 10-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring, just 1:32 into the game. After a missed extra point, the Vikings led 6-0.

Following the score, Siuslaw attempted the first of many onside kicks. Though unsuccessful, it set the tone for the relentless style of Coach Sam Johnson’s game plan.

The Knights began to show life on offense and were moving, but Thornton showed he’s a force on both sides of the ball and intercepted a pass from North Valley’s Jaydon Twedell. This was soon followed by another Erickson touchdown pass, this one to senior Isaac Garza. Lacouture ran in from the 2-yard line for the conversion and the Vikings ended the first quarter with a 14-0 lead.

North Valley and Siuslaw traded possessions until the Vikings forced a turnover on downs and took over on their own 9-yard line.

On the very next play, Erickson again hit Thornton with a pass and Siuslaw’s first ever Les Schwab Bowl All-Star sprinted most of the 91 yards for his second touchdown of the game. That 91-yard score is the third longest in Siuslaw history, bested only by Jared Kreil, who had a 93-yard reception in 2004 and Joe Hill who scored from 97 yards in 1978. This score, along with a third Erickson to Thornton touchdown connection made it 28-0 Viks. 

Just under the four-minute mark in the half, Erickson scored on a quarterback keeper putting the home team up 34-0. As the teams separated, some words were exchanged by both sides and referees were forced to step into the scrum and stand between the players. Personal foul penalties were assessed, two on the Vikings, one on the Knights and the officials warned both teams about the escalating amount of chippy play.

Following this, Camp Lacouture kicked through the extra point and the Vikings ended the half with a 35-0 lead.

The domination continued in the third quarter.

Coach Johnson’s defense gave the offense excellent field position when the trio of juniors Noah Dotson, Victor Ayalo and Kevin Holloway combined to block a North Valley punt to put the Siuslaw offense at the Knights 3-yard line. 

Soon after, Lacouture took the handoff in for a touchdown and also kicked the extra point to put the blue and gold up 42-0.

Coach Johnson gave everyone who had not yet played a chance to play in the fourth quarter. Freshman Aiden Webb, Joel Sissel, Andrew Jensen Norman, Deegan Smith and Max Reynolds all saw their first varsity action. 

North Valley’s Twedell found tight end Brady Huff for a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth.

In between those two scores, junior running back Hunter Petterson ran 27 yards for the Vikings seventh touchdown of the evening.

Erickson finished 13 of 18 passing for 330 yards. That single game yardage total ranks only behind the player who Erickson backed up last year, Elijah Blankenship, who had games of 339 and 337. Erickson also threw for four touchdowns and ran for another.

For a player starting for the first time, Erickson impressed the Viking coach.

“Offensively, Beau exceeded every expectation I could have ever put on him,” Johnson said. “We thought we were going to bounce back and forth between a veer and a spread offense. He kind of solidified that this team is definitely more of a spread team because he can throw the ball in places that most people can't.”

Thornton racked up 210 yards receiving, a total that will inevitably add to the growing number of college coaches already hoping he’ll consider taking his talents to their school.

“To me, he just solidified that he's the best receiver in the state in any division,” said Johnson. “It's no wonder that I’m getting emails every day from different colleges and universities wanting to reach out to him or ask what kind of kid he is. It's an easy answer with him. He's a really good kid who does the right things. He's dialed into what we're doing as a team. He’s a good friend and a better person. He’s been awesome. It was nice to be able to see him get the ball a bunch in game one.”

Lacouture rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown along with 42 yards receiving. He also kicked four extra points and ran in a 2-point conversion, yet Johnson that doesn’t tell the whole story of his contribution to the team.

“99% of what Camp does for our football team can’t be summed up in stats, because he'll get his touches on offense, he’ll get his rushing and receiving yards, he’ll get picks and tackles … all the stuff you can put on paper,” said Johnson. “But he’s the cog that makes us go. He’s the captain on defense. He makes sure everyone on offense knows what they’re doing. He is an incredible athlete and a really special kid.”

Johnson also highlighted two of his coaches on the defensive side of the ball and the work they did having the players prepared for the first game of the season.

“We have Nick Johnson as defensive coordinator. For him to have the guys that dialed in for week one, well, I think it says a lot about him. I think it also says a lot about our kids and the culture that our coaching staff has brought to the program,” he said.

The team also added Coach John Rose, who “has paid dividends too because he has the linemen buying in,” said Johnson. “They’ve been working in the weight room, since even before the summer, and getting faster, stronger and bigger. We just bullied a 4A powerhouse team that runs the ball down everybody's throat, and they (the Viking defense) had no problem containing them. That was awesome for me defensively.”

Siuslaw will travel to Sisters (0-1) for another non-league match-up at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Outlaws lost 16-7 at Madras on Sept. 10 to open their season. First-year coach Clayton Hall is implementing an offense that will include multiple formations and misdirection and should be a good test for the Viking defense. Before coming to Sisters, Hall coached at schools in Utah and Oregon.

In other action of interest from around the state, the Viking’s future opponents had a bad night and went a combined 1-3 with only Gladstone winning, 21-20 over Astoria. 2A #2 Kennedy crushed 3A #2 Santiam Christian 31-0. South Umpqua picked up another big win, 48-0 over Pleasant Hill. Also, La Pine lost to Vale 20-14.