Lining up for the second-half kickoff Friday night at Clemens Field, Siuslaw High’s football team needed a spark. The Warriors, meanwhile, had frustrated the visitors with two goal-line stands, two fumble recoveries and a long touchdown pass to build a 19-0 lead.
The feel of the game changed on the kickoff.
Siuslaw recovered an onside kick, moved the ball 48 yards on seven plays and maintained its momentum throughout the second half in a come-from-behind 28-19 victory.
“We talked about obviously coming out in the second half and not letting up,” PHS coach Tony Matta said. “I think with that onside kick to start the second half, our heads dropped a little bit and then that quick score in a minute and a half took the wind out of our sails.”
Philomath’s tale of two halves told the story in this one. In the first half, the Warriors had 224 yards of total offense and came up with defensive stops when needed. But in the second half, Philomath had just 35 yards and two first downs. Dropped passes, turnovers and penalties — which had actually been an issue in both halves — created havoc with the Warriors’ game plan.
Perhaps the most telling statistic of all could be seen with time of possession. The Warriors had the ball for only 6 minutes, 18 seconds in the second half, and for a mere 1:06 in the fourth quarter. Not only did that stifle the offense’s attempts to put more points on the board, but it created fatigue on defense.
“We spent a lot of time on defense on the field in the second half and that had a little bit of an impact physically,” Matta said.
Siuslaw had an advantage on the line of scrimmage defensively to limit Philomath’s run game to just 64 yards, most of those coming from the feet of quarterback Michael Lundy. The Warriors entered this season with a lot of youth in the trenches.
“We knew they were going to be pretty physical up front,” Matta said. “They were bringing six and so we can’t account for all those guys in the run game.”
In the first half, Philomath appeared to be on its way to a 2-0 record while Siuslaw was trying to avoid a 10th straight loss in a streak that dated back to 2017. The Vikings had taken the opening kickoff and put together a 16-play drive that got as far as the 5-yard line. Key plays on the drive included a 33-yard pass completion from QB Elijah Blankenship to Braydon Thornton on a fourth-and-8 and three off-sides penalties against the Warriors.
Backed up against the end zone, Philomath’s defense came up with big plays when it counted. Junior Blane Guzman had a key tackle for a loss on third-and-goal at the 5. After Siuslaw backed up another five yards on a penalty, Lundy’s pass coverage in the end zone led to an incompletion on fourth down.
Philomath struck quickly on its first offensive opportunity. On third-and-11, senior Dylan Bennett beat coverage down the right sideline and caught a well-placed Lundy pass on an 88-yard touchdown.
“We look at matchups all the time and obviously with the guys we have at receiver, we create matchup issues for people,” Matta said. “Just looking at the matchup and down and distance where we were at in that situation, making that call is a great call.”
Bennett, who had a height advantage on his defender, sprinted into the open on a “go” route. The TD came with 4:05 left in the first quarter and with Logan Hannigan-Downs’ extra-point kick, Philomath had a 7-0 lead.
Siuslaw responded with a 65-yard pass completion on the first play of the ensuing drive and nearly answered with another possession deep into Philomath territory. With first-and-goal at the 10, Siuslaw had two pass incompletions but picked up five yards on another Warriors off-sides penalty. Two plays later on fourth down from the 2, Philomath made the stop on running back Hector Garcia, who came to within a foot of reaching the end zone.
In the second quarter, Philomath turned two turnovers into points. Senior Brennan Provance recovered a fumble near midfield and the Warriors picked up a big chunk of yardage on the next drive’s first play with a 28-yard pass completion from Lundy to Hannigan-Downs. Those same two players hooked up again on the next play for another 13 yards but then the drive stalled.
Hannigan-Downs ended up with a 27-yard field goal to boost Philomath’s lead to 10-0 with 9:40 remaining in the second quarter.
Later in the half, Guzman recovered a fumble with Siuslaw backed up deep in its own territory. The turnover gave Philomath a first-and-goal from the 8 but two running plays were stopped and an incomplete pass in the end zone prompted Matta to go for another field goal. Hannigan-Downs again connected, this time from 28 yards out, for a 13-0 lead with 6:07 left in the half.
After Siuslaw turned the ball over on downs on its next possession, Philomath cashed in on another opportunity. A pass interference penalty on the Vikings helped the cause but a key play occurred on second-and-10 when Lundy broke off a 32-yard run.
On third-and-goal from the 1, Lundy scored a touchdown with a roll-out to his left. On the extra point, the snap and hold were not in sync and Siuslaw blocked the attempt. Still, Philomath could feel good about a 19-0 lead with 2:19 left in the first half.
Siuslaw then dominated the second half beginning with that onside kick recovery and the quick drive to the end zone. On the TD, Blankenship hit Camp Lacouture on third-and-11 from the 13.
Philomath miscues surfaced on its first drive of the second half. Two false start penalties and the inability to get the run game going quickly stalled the effort. On fourth down, a botched 15-yard punt allowed Siuslaw to set up shop with decent field position from its own 40.
The Vikings worked fast to get into the end zone for a second time. Blankenship picked up 33 yards on a run around the left side. Later on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Garcia was able to carry his momentum forward into the end zone despite a hard hit from PHS senior Colby Roe.
Just like that, Philomath’s lead had been cut to 19-14 with a lot of time left — 5:11 remaining in the third. It was a new ballgame.
“We lost our composure a little bit,” Matta said. “We have to do a better job as a coaching staff bringing those guys together and getting their heads back to where they need to be.”
Philomath turned the ball over on its next drive. Things appeared to be turning around on a key third-down catch by sophomore Carson Gerding to move the chains but then things went in a different direction.
A run netted no yards, Philomath lost three yards on a fumbled snap and then Siulsaw’s Lacouture came up with an interception to give his team the ball.
“Siuslaw did a good job in the second half defensively,” Matta said. “We did not find our groove in the second half.”
Five plays later, the Vikings took a 20-19 lead. Again, the first play of the drive netted big yards for Siuslaw with Blankenship hitting Thornton for a 39-yard pickup. The touchdown came on a 5-yard halfback option pass from Lacouture to Thornton on fourth-and-5.
After Philomath had a three-and-out possession, Siuslaw made it a two-possession game with another touchdown, but not without a little drama along the way. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Blankenship attempted a pass to his right near the sideline but Philomath’s Guzman timed his coverage just right and had an opportunity for an interception, possibly even a pick-6. Siuslaw was fortunate to get out of the play with only an incompletion.
It brought up a fourth-and-5 and the Vikings decided to punt. But Philomath was whistled for a penalty to give Siuslaw new life with a first down. The visitors drove downfield and scored on a 9-yard TD pass over the middle from Blankenship to Brady Libby. An important two-point conversion was good on a Garcia run.
Philomath’s two remaining possessions ended on interceptions and Siuslaw ate up 7:33 of clock time to earn the victory. The Vikings got down to the 1-yard line on the drive and appeared to score on a QB keeper, but officials threw a flag for “assisting the runner.” Provance and senior Brody Hiner then had a tackle for loss and the Warriors' defense held with a short run and incomplete pass.
“We did a good job of throwing the ball in the first half,” Matta said. “We missed some balls in the second; we dropped some balls that really changed the way the second half looks I think. We just have to maintain our composure and make the plays we’re capable of making.”
Siuslaw’s Blankenship threw for 284 yards and ran for 87 more. Lundy had 195 yards passing and 67 rushing. Hannigan-Downs caught five balls for 65 yards.
“We’re young up front, we’re getting better every day and we’ll move forward,” Matta said. “The older guys here, the seniors in this group, will help the younger guys get us to play in November.”
Philomath (1-1) will try to regroup in Week 3 with a trip to Madras to play 4A independent McLoughlin.
Matta remains positive about the season.
“We need to get back to work on Monday,” Matta said. “We got dinged up a little bit but we’ll move forward. It’s a great group of kids and I believe these guys will achieve some great success this year.”
Siuslaw 28, Philomath 19
Friday at Philomath
SIUSLAW (1-1) 0 0 20 8 — 28
PHILOMATH 1-1) 7 12 0 0 — 19
PHS: Dylan Bennett 88 pass from Michael Lundy (Logan Hannigan-Downs kick), 4:05
PHS: FG Hannigan-Downs 27, 9:40
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PHS: FG Hannigan-Downs 28, 6:07
PHS: Lundy 1 run (Hannigan-Downs kick), 2:19
SHS: Camp Lacouture 13 pass from Elijah Blankenship (Braydon Thornton run), 10:21
SHS: Hector Garcia 1 run (run failed), 5:11
SHS: Thornton 6 pass from Lacouture (run failed), 1:01
SHS: Brady Libby 9 pass from Blankenship (Garcia run), 9:56
First Downs 21 10
3rd down efficiency 10-19 5-13
4th down efficiency 3-7 0-1
Total Yards 426 259
Passing 290 195
Comp-Att-Int 21-41-0 11-30-3
Yards per pass 7.1 6.5
Rushing 136 64
Rushing attempts 43 21
Yards per rush 3.2 3.0
All-Purpose Yards 559 317
Punt returns 1-20 2-31
Kickoff returns 4-69 5-27
Interceptions returns 3-44 0-0
Penalties 7-55 14-78
Offensive 3-15 6-33
Defensive 3-35 6-35
Special teams 1-5 2-10
Turnovers 2 4
Fumbles-lost 2-2 3-1
Interceptions thrown 0 3
Sacked-yards lost 1-7 0-0
Punts 2-39.0 4-29.5
Possession 30:31 17:29
First half 12:49 11:11
Second half 17:42 6:18
RUSHING — Siuslaw, Elijah Blankenship 21-87, Hector Garcia 17-48, Camp Lacouture 4-4, Braydon Thornton 1-(-3). Philomath, Michael Lundy 9-67, Caleb Jensen 1-1, Isaiah Blackburn 1-0, Colby Roe 10-(-4).
PASSING — Siuslaw, Elijah Blankenship 20-40-0-284, Camp Lacouture 1-1-0-6. Philomath, Michael Lundy 11-28-3-195, Caleb Jensen 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING — Siuslaw, Camp Lacouture 7-70, Braydon Thornton 6-123, Brady Libby 5-23, Rhys Fleming 2-9, No. 84 1-65. Philomath, Logan Hannigan-Downs 5-65, Colby Roe 3-34, Carson Gerding 2-8, Dylan Bennett 1-88.
Philomath 26, Junction City 6
Sept. 9 at Philomath
JUNCTION CITY 6 0 0 0 — 6
PHILOMATH 0 6 6 14 — 26
Team notes: Philomath’s JV opens the season at 1-0. … Junction City took an early 6-0 lead. … PHS tied the game, 6-6, on a 55-yard TD pass from Caleb Jensen to Jacob Williams. … The Warriors took a 12-6 lead in the third quarter on a 2-yard TD run by quarterback Josh Peters. … In the fourth, Peters hit Ty May for a 25-yard touchdown pass and then Peters scored on a 19-yard run. … David Griffith scored a two-point conversion after the final touchdown. … “We got off to a slow start in the first half and didn’t execute well,” JV assistant Justin Marshall said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and came out and executed a whole lot better in the second half.” … The JV team plays Monday at Siuslaw.