Yes, the South Umpqua offense faces quite a challenge this weekend.

When the third-seeded Lancers (10-1) square off against No. 7 Vale (10-1) at 10 a.m. Saturday in a semifinal game of the Class 3A football playoffs at Caldera High School in Bend, yards and points are likely going to be hard to come by.

While South Umpqua has been efficient most of the season on offense, averaging 34.8 points a game, the Vikings have been dominant on the defensive side, allowing a 3A-low 9.6 points per game.

Vale knocked off No. 2 Rainier 14-6 last week in the quarterfinals, holding the Columbians to 129 yards total offense and a season-low point total.

“We had a heck of a game plan and the kids really executed it,” Vale coach Jeff Aldred said. “I’m pretty proud of their effort.”

South Umpqua coach Steve Stebbins, who has watched several Vale games on tape this week, is very impressed with the Vikings’ defense.

“They’re outstanding,” Stebbins said. “Fast and athletic. They come downhill in a hurry and fly to the football, and are very solid fundamentally. You don’t see them make a lot of mistakes.

“We have to make sure we do a good job of maintaining our blocks and don’t turn the ball over. We’ll have to get a good mix of run and pass, with play action coming into play.”

Aldred said senior defensive end Peter McBride (5-11, 180), senior linebacker Jackson Schaffeld (5-11, 200) and senior defensive backs Tanner Steele (6-3, 180) and John Wolfe (6-2, 175) have been among the standouts for the Vikings.

Vale has won eight straight games since dropping a 37-12 nonleague decision to 4A La Grande in Week 3. The Vikings own the most state football championships in Oregon history (12) and are seeking their 13th crown.

“Expectations in Vale are always high. We want to win league and make a run in the playoffs every year,” Aldred said. “We knew we had a pretty good group coming back. The best thing about our group is we have interchangeable and versatile athletes. I feel we have very good team speed, especially defensively.”

S.U. has defeated No. 14 Yamhill-Carlton, 35-6, and No. 11 Santiam Christian, 28-8, at home in the playoffs.

Vale finished with 175 total yards against Rainier. Steele, the quarterback, had two touchdown runs.

“He’s a natural leader, and a true dual threat quarterback,” Aldred said.

Stebbins feels the key to stopping the Vale offense is containing Steele. The Vikings have capable running backs in senior Nathan Kimball (5-9, 165), McBride and junior Eli Aldred (5-8, 175), and a big-play receiver in Wolfe.

“They run multiple formations,” Stebbins said. “(Steele) is a big-time run threat ... he’s more of a runner than thrower.”

The Lancers have played well defensively, giving up just two touchdowns in two playoff contests and allowing an average of 12.7 points for the season.

“They get after it on defense,” Aldred said. “They’re aggressive and bring a lot of pressure.”

While Aldred is confident in his defense, he’s also concerned about the S.U. offense.

The Lancers feature a passing attack the Vikings haven’t seen. Junior quarterback Jace Johnson has passed for 1,995 yards and 31 TDs this season.

He’s got plenty of targets to throw to — Kade Johnson, Isaac Real, Isaac Simpson, Andrew Christensen, Caleb Horton and Tanner Dobeck. Caj Simmons and Justin Jenks head the running game.

“They’re very dynamic and athletic,” Aldred said. “They’re versatile, and have a run scheme that we haven’t seen much of. Their quarterback is very good, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

“We have our work cut out for us.”

No. 5 La Pine (7-3) meets No. 1 Siuslaw (10-0) in the other semifinal Saturday. That game will be played at Cottage Grove High School.

NOTES: South Umpqua and Vale have a playoff history.

The Vikings pulled out a 24-20 win in the Class AA semifinals in 1975. The Lancers, coached by Kent Wigle, whipped Vale 36-7 in the 1977 semis en route to winning the state title.

Vale’s last state championship came in 2015, a 27-20 victory over Santiam Christian.

Tom Eggers can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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Sports Editor

Tom Eggers is the sports editor for The News-Review. He can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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