Sept. 19, 2022 — On Thursday, Sept. 15, the McKenzie Eagles came to Mapleton for a Special District 2 North division match-up. This was the home opener for the Sailors and the first time fans would get a chance to see a six-man football game since the 1940s, when the Sailors last fielded a six-man team.
This was also the first time an official varsity football game, of any sort, has been played in Mapleton since April 9, 2021, when the Sailors wrapped up their “2020” season the following spring. The 2021 season was cancelled for lack of players.
Both Mapleton and McKenzie were looking for their first victory of this season. The Sailors were coming off a 49-6 thumping at Glendale and the Eagles’ only game was their opener, a 32-7 loss to Siletz Valley.
The home team was confident.
Before the game, Mapleton sophomore wide receiver/running back Dom Stewart said, “I think we’re going to beat them.”
Sailor fans in attendance agreed.
“We’re going to crush them,” Mapleton parent and fan Lou Burruss said as the two teams warmed up.
The MHS squad had been working hard since their loss to Glendale and installed some new concepts into the playbook.
Caleb Lewis, senior wide receiver and defensive back, said, “I have a lot of faith in it” in regard to the new things they’ve been working on in practice.
The players were excited to give the new ideas a shot and had a lot of faith in themselves.
“I think we will run the plays really smoothly,” Stewart predicted.
The Sailors received the opening kick-off and the two teams proceeded to trade drives. Towards the end of the first quarter, junior quarterback Keevyn Walker hit Lewis from 7 yards out to give the Sailors the first score of the game and, after the conversion, a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles answered with a score of their own. Their conversion failed and the score was 7-6.
At one point, Mapleton forced McKenzie into a fourth and long situation. The Eagles decided to punt.
Walker received the punt at his own 36-yard line. The junior bolted down the field and, thanks to a few well timed blocks by teammates Mason Flansberg and Tristan Stewart, both seniors, he returned the punt 64 yards for the Sailors’ second touchdown of the game.
Mapleton was successful on the conversion and took a 14-6 lead that they would take into the halftime break.
The home team came out aggressive in the second half. Freshman kicker Jacob Burchell helped the Sailors hold onto the momentum for the rest of the game.
Burchell kicked a perfect 10-yard squib to the east side of the field. After bouncing off an Eagle, Walker jumped on the ball and recovered it for Mapleton. The home team got the ball back, preventing McKenzie from having any chance to tie the game to start the half.
McKenzie tightened things up with another touchdown but failed on their conversion attempt, making the score 14-13.
The Sailor defense played their best game of the young season. Flansberg, D. Stewart and freshman Asher Geil locked down the Eagles for most of the game, but the Mapleton offense’s methodical drives were key to the team success.
Led by senior center Emily Neece, the Sailors were able to drive up and down the field with the most success they have found all season. T. Stewart took the play calls from Coach Tyler Krueger then relayed them to the huddle.
In six-man football, the quarterback cannot run the ball unless they first receive the ball from another back via pitch or hand off, forcing six-man teams to create new and innovative ways to run their offense. Mapleton would typically set up in a formation where T. Stewart would receive the snap. Then, he would hand it off or flip it to Walker, who would then run the play.
The offense worked well in the game against McKenzie.
The Sailors’ final score was another touchdown by Walker, this one from two yards out. The Sailors put in another conversion giving them a 21-13 lead.
Burchell executed another perfect onside kick that Walker, again, recovered, taking away any chance the visiting team may have had for a comeback.
The final score was 21-13, giving Mapleton their first six-man football win since the 1940s.
Walker finished the game with one touchdown rushing and 172 yards on the ground, another touchdown passing and another on a kick-off return. D. Stewart had 22 yards receiving to top Mapleton.
In other action from around the six-man division, the Sailors’ opponent next week, Eddyville Charter, lost to Siletz Valley in a shoot-out, 40-39. Jewell shutout Crow 41-0. Mapleton’s rival from down Highway 36, Triangle Lake, crushed last week’s opponent Glendale 55-6. 1A Six-man #1 Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler had little trouble with Pine Eagle and won 36-0.
Next for Mapleton the Sailors will face another Eagle squad when they travel to Eddyville on Sept. 23 with a league match-up. Kick-off is at 4 p.m.