Nov. 6, 2019 — Siuslaw football closed out its regular season with a loss on Friday night, with the Viks falling to the Sutherlin Bulldogs 18-56 — due in large part to a string of injuries that had beset the team.
Going into the game, the Viks had high hopes.
“We were thinking it would be really nice to win the game, but we had already earned a playoff spot,” quarterback Elijah Blankenship said. “We still had to play our cards, but knowing Camp [Lacouture] would be out was a bummer.”
Runningback Skyler Loomis added to the lament over Lacouture, who will be out for the rest of the season. “Usually, Camp has about 200 yards a game on our offense, and usually has five or six tackles on defense. So, it did impact our game a lot.”
In addition, safety Beau Erickson was also out for the season and, for Friday night, a host of other players had injuries that prevented them from being on the field — including senior lineman Matthew Horrillo and wide-receiver and safety Brady Libby.
Despite that, the Viks came out fighting in the first quarter, with Blankenship making a 50-yard pass to Braydon Thornton for 6 points just a minute into the game.
“That definitely boosted our confidence,” Blankenship said. “It was definitely an uplifting moment.”
But then Sutherlin answered back halfway through the first quarter, crossing the end zone twice in a two-minute period.
“It was kind of a punch in the face,” Loomis said. “But you gotta come back and keep playing your game.”
They did come back when Blankenship again passed to Thronton for a touchdown with three minutes left in the quarter, but the Bulldogs answered back with a run at the buzzer.
After that, Sutherlin ran the board, shutting out the Viks throughout the second quarter. That’s when another injury forced center and linebacker Christian Newlan out of the lineup.
“Offensively, we brought in a new center that hadn’t played all season, and there was confusion with everything. We had to figure out what we were doing there for a minute,” Blankenship said.
At the half, the Viks were down by 30.
“It sucked being down by 30, but we’ve been down in games before in the past,” Blankenship said. “We had to decide to be a tougher team and finish out the game — or roll over and lose by 80. You can’t let the score affect you at that point.”
But at the same time, the Viks knew that injuries could hurt their performance in the playoffs. While a win against Sutherlin could have affected their position, it wasn’t a must-win to make it into the post season.
“So, the goal in the second half half was to play hard, try and come back, but don’t get injured,” Blankenship said.
The third quarter saw Sutherlin with two more downs, along with successful kicks. Hector Garcia made a 6-yard run for another 6 points. In the fourth quarter, the Viks held the Bulldogs off from making any points.
While the Viks didn’t pull off a win, they staved off any more injuries for the playoff game, which is a milestone in an already successful season.
“Coming off an 0-8 season, it was tough, but this year picking it up and Coach (Johnson) pushing us to do our best in every game, it just really helps a lot,” Loomis said. “It shows that he cares about us and wants us to do really good.”
Offensive and defensive lineman Henry Rankin added, “I feel like we had a good season and definitely turned things around. That last loss was not what we wanted, but it feels good to be in the playoffs and play another game. We’re excited, especially for Braydon. He broke the receiving record for a single season by 150 yards.”
He also pointed out that Blankenship is 65 yards away from the single-season passing record.
“Super stoked to be able to protect the best quarterback in Siuslaw football history,” Rankin said.
On Friday, the Viks will be playing at Hidden Valley, which is also having a season of milestones. Ranked No. 1 in the league, they’re currently celebrating a 9-0 run.
“They’re a really good team, but we have a chance to win,” Blankenship said. “We’ll be out some injured players, but we can’t let that affect us. Obviously, we’re nervous about playing a better team, but we just can’t let that affect us.”
Rankin agreed, saying, “We’re nervous. You’re nervous for any game that you play, no matter what the stakes.”
If the Viks lose, it will be a cap to a season that shows what possibilities Viking football has in store.
“If we lose, we try and come back next year with that fire and a chip on our shoulders,” Rankin said.
They’ll be a playoff team with experience, and that will carry them on.
But Blankenship, Rankin and Loomis aren’t thinking that way.
“Even if people see us as the underdog, we’re going to go out there and finish our game,” Loomis said.
And if they win?
“We’re just going to start preparing for the next game,” Rankin said.