Siuslaw shines at jamboree

Photo by Mike Smith

The Vikings football team played to a roaring crowd on Friday as Siuslaw hosted three teams during its first-ever jamboree.

Siuslaw 3-0

Bandon 0-3

Marshfield 0-2

Pleasant Hill 1-1

Sept. 4 — The Vikings football team played to a roaring crowd on Friday as Siuslaw hosted three teams during its first-ever jamboree. Among the teams that participated were Bandon, Marshfield and Pleasant Hill.

“I think a lot of people were wondering what to expect because this is the first jamboree in Siuslaw history, at least the first one since I’ve been here,” Siuslaw School District Athletic Director Chris Johnson said.

One of the things they probably weren’t expecting was a win and a tie, a small miracle after eight straight league losses in 2018, and only one win in 2017.

“I said it last season, they’re really, really ready to win,” Coach Sam Johnson said of his team.

The jamboree replaced the traditional Blue and Gold Game, which had the varsity team play in an inner-squad scrimmage for fans.

“With the jamboree, you can actually play somebody. And it’s one going against one, it’s not us going against our JV team,” Coach Johnson said.

Chris Johnson added, “But this year we had a sampling of school sizes. We had a 4-A school, a 3-A school and a 2-A school come, so we got a chance to see a little different level of football between the contests we played.”

And the crowds showed up in the hundreds cheering on the teams.

“We had a pretty good gate, considering it was 11 a.m. on a Friday, which is a workday for a lot of people,” Chris Johnson said. “It seems to me that there were as many people there as there were at our home games from last year. I think that’s because people are excited about Siuslaw football right now.”

It’s an excitement that comes from a number of factors, including the hiring of Sam Johnson as the program’s new head coach — someone who also once wore the Vikings’ blue and gold.

“I was in a lot of their lives through the church, I was their youth leader. I was the high school kid while they were middle schoolers, elementary school kids. That was neat to me, to be able to come back and be a part of this,” Coach Johnson said.

Some of the old school plays that the Viks have been famous for are also coming back with Coach Johnson.

“People who watched football here for the last 50 years are used to seeing Siuslaw running some form of the veer offense, except for Coach Pool and Coach Smith, who went away from the veer,” Chris Johnson said. “It looked like traditional Siuslaw football [on Friday], with some of the plays that I saw coach Dodson running. My dad was a football coach, too, and they ran the veer. To me it looks like smashmouth, six-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust type of mentality. That’s been our hallmark.”

And finally, for the first time in a few years, the kids are ready and able to start racking up some wins again.

“A lot of people were critical of the football team and the coaching they received last season,” Chris Johnson explained. “The lack of wins we’ve had over the last few years, you could point to a lot of factors. But the number one factor was low participation numbers from a couple classes in a row. You look at a sport like football when you have 11 people on both sides. The fewer numbers you have, the harder it is. And we just didn’t have upperclassman.”

But they did have wins. Even though the varsity games were a loss, “if you look at the numbers, we won most of our JV games because those kids were playing with kids their own age.”

And now those kids are wearing varsity jackets, said Chris Johnson. “We were fairly confident we would be more competitive this year than we were last year. And Sam’s got people fired up. “They’re rolling, and it’s pretty cool.”

Coach Johnson added that “It’s up to us to go out and win football games. They’re going to be prepared for them. We’re going to win or lose football games on whether they show up or not. And they said, through their actions, they’re ready to show up every single time.”

And they certainly showed up for Friday’s jamboree with their first match-up, against 2-A Bandon, with a 3-0 win.

“Bandon is a very typical, double-wing-T, run the ball right down your throat type of team,” Coach Johnson said. “Our kids showed up and played really hard. Stopped a run, which is really nice. They didn’t fall asleep on the pass. So, I thought we played really well against Bandon.”

Among the highlights of Friday’s first game were a pair of touchdown passes from Elija Blankenship to Braydon Thornton, along with a 40-yard touchdown from Camp Lacouture.

After that was 4-A powerhouse Marshfield.

“Marshfield is always really, really good,” Coach Johnson said. “They’ve got a running back with offers from Oregon and Oregon State. It was a really good opportunity for us to go up against a division-1 athlete. We really shut him down.”

And then the Viks ended with district rival Pleasant Hill.

“Beside one play being out of position and them scoring, everything else we did against them was really positive,” Coach Johnson said. “The kids competed really hard with fire in them, so that was really nice.”

The game ended in a tie, 1-1.

Overall, Coach Johnson said that his team’s offensive and defensive lines played well.

“Defensively, a kid like Brady Libby, who’s a junior playing safety and outside linebacker — he’s in on every single tackle,” Coach Johnson said. “Camp Lacouture, the position he plays, we call it ‘Rambo’ because he can kind of do whatever he wants at times. He plays the run and the pass, and there aren’t a lot of kids who can do that. But him and Brady Libby can both do that really well.”

As for things the team needs to work on, Coach Johnson laughed, saying, “There are a million things to work on from the jamboree. But specifically, knowing our jobs and our duties. Just executing better.”

Next up for the Viks will be the season opener, an away game at 4-A Elmira this Friday at 7 p.m.

“I think this week will be a really tough test with Elmira because they are a top team in the 4-A,” Coach Johnson said. “We should be a 4-A school and able to execute well on offense and be able to shut them down on defense — and that would be really, really nice.”

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