Vale came out strong against Sutherlin and won 49-7 in a first-round game of the Class 3A state football playoffs in Vale.

“You can’t start slow on a good team and we started real slow,” Sutherlin coach Josh Gary said. “The long drive and all the excuses we can make, it’s just a bad end to a good season.”

The Vikings returned the opening kickoff to the 50-yard line to set the tone for the game. Five plays later, Colton Kesey threw a 31-yard pass to Tanner Hamilton for the first touchdown of the game.

In a Nov. 2 article in The News-Review, Gary was quoted, “Offensively the quarterback isn’t a good strong thrower, but they run the ball and you get into a mismatch.”

According to the Argus Observer, a newspaper in Ontario, members of the Vale football team saw the article and wanted to prove Sutherlin’s coach wrong.

“He pointed out Kesey’s arm strength, and (Kesey) didn’t like the way it was worded. And he really was challenged by everybody, including his mother,” Vale coach Jeff Aldred told the Argus Observer. “Really the key for us, though, is to get the ball in space. And we needed to have that mindset that you will not be denied.”

Kesey finished the game completing 9 of 11 passes for 165 yards and two passing touchdowns. He also scored on a 1-yard run.

Vale’s Matt McBride had 12 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown in the game. Hamilton was the top receiver for Vale with four catches for 81 yards and two TDs.

No. 12 Sutherlin (7-3) hadn’t played in a state playoff game since 2009 and was 4-21 from 2015-2017. This was the first season back at the Bulldogs’ helm for coach Gary.

“Overall I’m pretty happy with the season,” he said. “Those seniors that stuck it out with some tough years worked really hard and did a great job. And now the juniors see that example and will follow suit and we have a lot of talent coming back.”

Jake Merrifield score the lone touchdown for the Bulldogs on a 4-yard run in the second quarter. Merrifield rushed the ball 22 times for 64 yards.

Sutherlin quarterback Cade Meisner was 9 of 24 passing for 118 yards, he also threw two interceptions. Both interceptions were returned for TDs by the Vikings.

Hunter Fadness had nine carries for 30 yards and JR Bailey was the leading receiver with four receptions for 53 yards. Defensively, the team was led by Mason Gill with seven tackles.

Fadness, Bryce Olson, Anthony Friesen, Bryce Anderson, Meisner, Dillon Gurule, Quinton Garcia, Will Singleton, Wyatt Burns, Jacob Mansfield, Austin Owens, Scott Shepard, Zach Lepre, Darren Nastic and Bailey are seniors on the Sutherlin roster.

No. 5 Vale will play at No. 4 Burns in the quarterfinal game next week. Burns defeated Vale, 26-6, in the final regular season game for the Vikings.

Sutherlin 0 7 0 0 — 7

Vale 21 14 7 7 — 49

First Quarter

V — Hamilton 31 pass from Kesey (Kesey kick)

V — Kesey 1 run (Kesey kick)

V — Hamilton 36 pass from Hauter (Kesey kick)

Second Quarter

V — McBride 91 interception (Kesey kick)

V — McBride 25 run (Kesey kick)

S — Merrifield 4 run (Olson kick)

Third Quarter

V — Hamilton 4 interception (Kesey kick)

Fourth Quarter

V — Romans 28 pass from Kesey (Kesey kick)

Reporter Dan Bain contributed to this story.

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Education Reporter

Sanne Godfrey is the education reporter for The News-Review.

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