SWEET HOME — The number-one goal for Sweet Home on Thursday night was finding the running game after some recent struggles, and the Huskies took steps toward doing that.
Sweet Home rushed for 270 yards and took advantage of Philomath’s five first-half turnovers. The Huskies turned those mistakes into a 35-3 advantage and came away with a 42-3 win in a 4A Special District 3 football win.
Cade Gaskey led the rushing attack with 74 yards, and Sweet Home (2-4, 1-2) also got 65 from quarterback Aiden Tyler, 42 from Jackson Royer and 34 from Travis Thorpe on homecoming night in a contest Huskies coach Dustin Nichol called a “must-game” in terms of keeping state playoff hopes alive.
“Our run game is coming along great. We ran the ball fantastic tonight,” said Tyler, who threw for 134 yards and four touchdowns, two of those to Zach Luttmer. “Our line is a big part of that. They blocked amazing. It’s really nice to be deep and have a few guys to run the ball.”
The Huskies had negative rushing yards the past two weeks, Nichol said, and were trying to figure out a plan with a running back by committee approach.
“Now I think I’m winding it down where I think I’ve found a couple running backs I’m going to stick with more going forward,” the coach said.
Philomath (1-4, 0-3) struck first with a Logan Hannigan-Downs 25-yard field goal late in the first quarter.
But the Warriors struggled to get much more going offensively, especially after starting quarterback Michael Lundy left the game with 8:28 left in the second quarter and didn’t. Philomath coach Tony Matta said Lundy hit his head on the ground and was evaluated for a concussion.
“He does some good things for us, so we miss him when he’s not in the game,” Matta said.
The Huskies answered with a five-play, 85-yard drive that Gavin Nichols finished with a 5-yard touchdown run. The possession was highlighted by Tyler’s 56-yard run on a keeper down the right sideline.
Sweet Home’s Kai Bryson recovered a fumble on the Warriors’ next offensive play. Four snaps later, Gaskey scored on a 5-yard run.
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Philomath’s next play also involved a fumble, this time recovered by Huskies defender Tucker Weld. The Warrior defense stood up and prevented a score on the ensuing drive.
Sweet Home scored with 4:10 left in the half on Cole Baxter’s 12-yard pass from Tyler. Royer intercepted Philomath reserve Caleb Jensen on the next possession, and the Huskies scored on the next play as Luttmer hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass on essentially a Hail Mary pass by Tyler that was up for grabs.
Jensen had another interception, this time by Jasper Korn, but the Philomath defense again came through with a stop and Brennan Provance teams blocked a punt.
Philomath’s final turnover of the half came in the closing minutes, as Gaskey recovered a botched snap. Sweet Home converted a fourth down on a 42-yard drive that finished with Tye Moore catching a 16-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball. That’s a big part of the game and we didn’t do a very good job of that in the first half,” Matta said. “I thought defensively we did some good things, but we can’t be out on the field that much with those short fields.”
Sweet Home finished the scoring on Luttmer’s 44-yard touchdown pass from Tyler on a short toss that went off a Philomath defender’s hands and was scooped up by Luttmer, who finished the job.
“The defense did a great job getting the offense on the field and the offense did well when we got the ball. We executed well,” Tyler said.
Luttmer finished with three catches for 80 yards. Baxter and Korn had three receptions apiece and Moore two.
Colby Roe was Philomath’s leading rusher with 40 yards on 14 carries.
Lundy passed for 70 yards and Jensen 9. Carson Gerding had four catches for 41 yards and Matt Workman 2-29.
Next Friday, Philomath hosts Sisters and Sweet Home is at Stayton.