South Albany wasn’t playing the brand of football it worked to establish all summer.
Mistakes and penalties throughout the first 18 minutes Friday night kept the RedHawks from finding any traction and allowed North Salem to hang around despite its own share of miscues.
Once South cleaned up what was holding it back, it was full-speed ahead.
A running game led by Tyler Seiber and the RedHawks’ defense powered a stretch of 34 unanswered points in less than two quarters to run away to a 48-21 home win in a nonleague football game.
After a winless season last spring, South is 2-0 for the first time in seven years. A road matchup with current No. 4 Silverton comes next week in the Mid-Willamette Conference opener for both teams.
But getting that good start was in question early.
South co-head coach Jeff Louber brought his team together on the sideline after a short kickoff and two personal fouls of the verbal variety helped the Vikings (2-1) tie the game again at 14-all on four plays.
As Maxwell Louber, the coach’s son, described it, the message was to stop talking because the officials weren’t going to allow it and get back to playing football.
The change came almost immediately. The RedHawks scored twice in less than three minutes and, after recovering a North Salem fumble on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, scored again to lead 34-14.
South’s bruising running game and stifling defense did the rest.
“We were focused. We were collectively coming together. We had one mission,” coach Louber said. “I thought our O-line really stepped up in that second half. They took over.”
Seiber finished with 119 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. His 76-yard kickoff return that followed the quick team meeting in the second quarter set up another score.
Maxwell Louber added 48 yards on the ground and Jerron Berry, also the RedHawks’ kicker, 38. South used 10 different ball carriers.
North Salem’s offense featured sophomore quarterback, TC Manumaleuna, considered one of the state’s top prospects.
The RedHawks didn’t give him much time or space to operate. Manumaleuna was 1-of-10 passing for 23 yards and an interception before being replaced for his team’s final two possessions of the game. He ran one time for 9 yards.
“We were just sending pressure. Their line couldn’t block our line, and their backs couldn’t block our outside ‘backers,” said Seiber, an outside linebacker. “Our inside linebackers were just filling the gaps and we were sending stuff at them they couldn’t handle.”
After Seiber’s long kickoff return helped get Berry in the end zone from 6 yards out, South was handed a short field after a bad punt snap by the Vikings. Three plays later, Avery Adams scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.
Seiber helped the RedHawks cash in on the turnover to open the second half. His 2-yard touchdown run made it 34-14.
After South held North on downs at the North 44, the RedHawks ran the ball seven straight times, with Berry plunging it over the goal line on an 8-yard run.
Gaje Nicholson connected with Kellen Hanson for a 15-yard touchdown pass to complete the South scoring early in the fourth quarter.
Hanson then picked off a Vikings pass on the next drive. Teammate Devin “DJ” Jones had an interception in the first half.
Once the RedHawks righted the ship with a little encouragement, there was no question who was in charge.
“I saw everyone getting down, doing what they had to do on defense and making those stops when they needed them,” Maxwell Louber said. “We ran it down their throats. It’s what I live for. The blocking, the running, all of it. It was amazing.”
Jesse Sowa can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @JesseSowaGT.