Nov. 22, 2021 — When Viking Head Coach Sam Johnson took over as head of the Siuslaw football program in the fall of 2019, he knew he had a big job ahead of him. He also knew that, in a town like Florence, he would have a lot of support.
“Football is bred in this town,” said Johnson in August 2019. “That’s what we have. Not a lot of towns are like this anymore and it is kind of a time warp. But this town is football.”
Florence’s love for its football team was never more apparent than on Nov. 20, when one side of Herald White Stadium was packed with very vocal Siuslaw fans who had made the hour-and-45 minute trip to the valley to support their team.
La Pine fans traveled to Cottage Grove also, but in nowhere near the numbers Viking fans did and were outnumbered four to one. It sounded like a Viking home game in Cottage Grove on Saturday.
Florence fans saw their team beat La Pine 28-26 and advance to the state championship game for the first time since 2011. At state, coming this weekend, Siuslaw will face the South Umpqua Lancers, victors over Vale in a game earlier Saturday, 24-21. The championship game will be a rematch of the 1981 title game between the Vikings and Lancers, which finished in a 0-0 tie.
Saturday’s game started with a penalty-filled first quarter. Both teams appeared to be working through the nerves of playing on the big stage. Siuslaw managed to overcome those nerves first, when senior Camp Lacouture ended a six-play, 57-yard drive to score from one yard out. Fellow senior Braydon Thornton took the end-around in for the 2-point conversion.
With 1:59 to go in the first quarter, Siuslaw was up 8-0.
The teams traded possessions in the second quarter until the Viks put together a 91-yard drive capped by another Lacouture 1-yard touchdown run. Thornton scored his second conversion of the game on a pass from senior Beau Erickson and the Vikings were up 16-0 with 1:16 to go in the first half.
Down two scores with just over a minute to go in the half, La Pine took the kick-off to their 40-yard line. The Hawks’ hopes to cut the Viking leading in half were temporarily dashed when, on the first play of the drive, Siuslaw junior Victor Ayala intercepted quarterback Colton Campbell’s pass to end the La Pine drive.
Siuslaw took over, intending to increase their already large lead before the half. Erickson completed passes to Lacouture and senior Isaac Garza and the Vikings were driving, but with 17 seconds left, Erickson’s next pass was intercepted in front of the La Pine bench by Hawk Mike Brown. He took it 58 yards to the endzone. Campbell ran in the 2-point conversion and the score was 16-8 at the half.
La Pine received the ball to start the second half and put together a quick drive ending with a 15-yard touchdown run by Campbell. Before the Vikings knew what hit them, their lead was reduced to two, 16-14.
It would be a back and forth game from there on out.
Lacouture scored again, this time a 21-yard touchdown run. The score was 22-14 Siuslaw.
La Pine responded with a 19-yard touchdown run from Adrian Boysha to remain within two points at 22-20.
As he does, Lacouture just kept getting better as the game went on, getting the Vikings on the board first in the final quarter with a 30-yard touchdown run. The Viking lead was increased to 28-20.
Lacouture, named OSAA Player of the Game, finished with 168 yards rushing on 21 carries with 4 touchdowns. Junior Ian Sissel added 73 yards on the ground and Erickson also had 36 yards rushing. The Vikings put together another dominating rushing performance with 283 yards on the ground.
La Pine took over with 8:14 to go in the fourth and put together a 61-yard drive. With 3:41 to go, Campbell completed a 13-yard pass to Brown to cut the Siuslaw lead to two, 28-26.
The Hawks needed the conversion to tie the game and force the Vikings to answer. Their hopes were dashed, however, when Thornton picked off Campbell’s pass to maintain Siuslaw’s slim lead.
Then, the Vikings recovered the La Pine onside kick attempt. The running game continued its dominance as Siuslaw was able to run out the clock and win the game 28-26.
Viking fans stormed the field and celebrated the team’s first trip to the championship game in a decade.
Siuslaw meets South Umpqua, again in Cottage Grove, for the OSAA 3A State Championship on Saturday, Nov. 27, at 11 a.m. Tickets are only available online and can be purchased at osaa.hometownticketing.com/embed/event/387?es=8khsi8alfksrtr2cn4bofu18m2