Showdown win: Next: Foxes face Parkrose

November 2018 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, Sports

James DayBy James Day

ALBANY –  The Silverton High football ran up a 17-0 first-half lead Friday night against West Albany, then used grit and determination to hold on for a 17-14 Special District 3 win amid light to moderate rain at Memorial Stadium.

The win by the Foxes, No. 7 in Class 5A, lifted them into a tie for the Special District 3 championship with the third-ranked Bulldogs, who came into the game undefeated. Silverton, 8-1, earned the top OSAA ranking from the district and will open the playoffs Nov. 2 against visiting Parkrose at McGinnis Field.

The Foxes, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, would face West Albany again in the quarterfinals if Silverton beats Parkrose and the Bulldogs defeat LaSalle Prep of Milwaukie.

If the rematch occurs it will be tough to best the original.

“That was great, such a fun game,” said Silverton quarterback Levin Nielsen, who was making his second start since injuring his knee Sept. 14 vs. Lebanon.

“We knew it was going to be a close game and that it was going to come down to who was tougher… I guess we were.”

“That was a very good game between two good, physical teams,” said Foxes coach Josh Craig. “It was kind of like playing ourselves. I was very proud of how our guys hung in there in the second half when things weren’t going our way. That was real important.”

Wide receiver/defensive back Grant Buchheit said it was the “non-stop defensive work the team did in practice” that was the key. “It was awesome,” he said. “We are a very good team and have a chance to go far.”

“We shut them down,” said wide receiver/defensive back Riley Kramer, who praised the team’s defensive game plan. “We were flying around and wanted it more than they did.”

Nathan Kuenzi scored on short touchdown runs of 3 and 5 yards and Ben Willis kicked a 27-yard field goal to fuel the 17-0 Silverton edge in the first half. The first drive went 72 yards and featured a tackle-busting 16-yard run by Hayden Roth on third-and-2 and a 15-yard pass from Nielsen to Isaac Magana that put the ball inside the 5.

An 18-yard punt return by Magana helped set up the field goal while three passes from Nielsen to Kramer fueled the 48-yard drive that led to Kuenzi’s second TD, which came with just 14 seconds left in the half.

And it was a half dominated by the Silverton defense, which held the Bulldogs to 20 yards and zero first downs.

West Albany finally broke through late in the third quarter, mounting a 61-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard TD run by Hunter Crosswhite. The key play in the march was a 31-yard pass from QB Carson Van Dyke to wide receiver Connor Wolfe. It was the longest play of the game for either team.

The Bulldogs’ Seth Jackson recovered his own onside kickoff following the score, but Willis and Tashaun Treat sacked Van Dyke on first down and West Albany eventually had to punt.

The Bulldogs got the ball back on a strange turnover on the first play of the final period. Nielsen sneaked up the middle for what looked like a first down at the 26, but Kyle Hutson of West Albany snatched the ball away at the end of the play and scooted into the end zone. The Foxes thought the play had been blown dead and they had the first down. The Bulldogs thought they had a touchdown.

The officials split the difference, ruling that it was a fumble but spotting the ball at the 15 because of an “inadvertent whistle.”

Van Dyke scored from the 3 six plays later and Jackson’s PAT kick made it 17-14 with 9:42 left. The Foxes committed a penalty on the kickoff and were forced to start their next drive from their own 7.

A three-and-out would give the ball back to the Bulldogs with a short field. Silverton was on the ropes. Or were they?

First, the Foxes chewed up more than four minutes, advancing the ball to the 42. One first down came on a penalty on a late hit against Magana. The second came on an 8-yard pass from Nielsen to Buchheit on third-and 4.

The Foxes eventually gave up the ball, with Willis’ punt pushing the Bulldogs back to their own 26. West Albany scraped together one first down, but the Foxes stopped the drive 1 yard short of the first down at the Bulldogs’ 44 with just 2:31 left.

Three runs by Kuenzi set up a fourth-and-1 at the 41. Nielsen sneaked up the middle to move the stakes one final time … and the Silverton celebration began.

Notes: The Silverton freshman finished its season 9-0 and the program has a 32-game winning streak. The junior varsity squad was 6-2.

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Kennedy, meanwhile, continued its late-season surge with a 55-6 Special District 2 win vs. Chemawa. The Trojans, No. 9 in Class 2A, have won five in a row and will take a 7-2 record into the playoffs. Their only losses were to league rivals No. 2 Sheridan and No. 5 Santiam.

“As of now it looks like we will be hitting the road for the playoffs again this year,” coach Joe Panuke told Our Town. “If we keep playing physical and as a team I really like our chances going forward.”

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