FLORENCE — North Bend’s defense overwhelmed the Siuslaw football team, handing the Vikings their first loss of the season to seize the Far West League title.
The Bulldogs surged ahead in the fourth quarter, topping the host Vikings 34-20 on Friday night to stay unbeaten in league play. The victory earned the Bulldogs a bye in the Class 4A play-in round and then a home playoff game in two weeks.
“It’s a pleasure to win this game. Far West League champs finally,” said North Bend’s Drew Matthews.
North Bend coach Gary Prince said he was ecstatic with the defense, which forced seven Siuslaw turnovers — four interceptions and three fumbles.
“Defensively, we did an outstanding job,” he said. “Holding this team, this offense, to 20 points is good.
“We are very excited,” he added. “This was a real great team.”
Siuslaw coach Tim Dodson said he wasn’t pleased with the loss, but he wasn’t surprised, either.
“We don’t necessarily always practice hard,” he said. “That looks like us in practice.”
The Bulldogs started off strong, with a 26-yard field goal from Michael Hobson, and the Vikings faltered immediately. They had back-to-back false start penalties, then quarterback Jacob Thompson fumbled the snap and North Bend’s Marshall Giles recovered it, running it back to the 1-yard line.
From there, the Bulldogs scored easily on a 1-yard rush by quarterback Hamilton Mateski to take a 10-0 lead only five minutes into the game.
On Siuslaw’s next possession, North Bend’s Ty Roane intercepted Thompson, though the Bulldogs couldn’t turn it into points and the Vikings answered. Thompson connected with Jacob Egan for a 27-yard touchdown pass to keep the score close.
Early in the second quarter, Mateski came up with a fumble on Siuslaw’s 10-yard line, and returned it for a quick score to put the Bulldogs up 17-7.
Thompson then threw another interception, this time picked off by Cameron Lucero. But the Bulldogs failed to score again, allowing the Vikings to put together a nearly five-minute drive and score on a 1-yard rush by Thompson.
On North Bend’s previous possession, Mateski was hit hard and came out of the game with a suspected concussion. Lucero stepped in at quarterback and immediately threw an interception with 15 seconds left in the first half, but the Vikings couldn’t take the lead before the buzzer.
With Mateski out, Lucero said the Bulldogs made some adjustments at halftime.
“We put in a new formation and started running the ball,” he said.
“We told the kids in the locker room it was going to be a war of attrition,” Prince said.
On the opening possession of the third quarter, the Vikings took their first lead of the game. Thompson tossed a 14-yard pass to Ryan Smith who slipped behind his defender, and Siuslaw was ahead 20-17 after Smith’s kick failed.
North Bend’s offense slowed, struggling to get the running game going. But the defense kept the Bulldogs in it, as Matthews intercepted Thompson and Siuslaw went three-and-out on the next two possessions.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs got close enough for a field goal attempt, and Hobson nailed a 35-yarder to tie the game at 20-all.
“(It was great) for Michael Hobson to put those in,” Prince said.
After forcing another punt, North Bend took back the lead. Running behind Zach Hawk much of the drive, Lucero broke open for a 27-yard scoring run and a 27-20 lead.
Siuslaw started moving the ball, aided by a North Bend personal foul, but Matthews came up with another big interception, reeling in an impressive catch after it was tipped by the intended receiver.
Soon after that, Lucero broke a tackle and sprinted 86 yards for a touchdown, leaving defenders trailing behind him for the final margin.
“Give all the credit to the line,” he said. “They were opening holes for the backs, and me.”
“We had two big plays for touchdowns there,” Prince said. “Offense kept grinding. We’ve had so many line changes (because of injuries), our coaches have just done a great job getting them ready week in and week out.”
Lucero led North Bend’s offense with 116 yards rushing and 76 yards receiving, and Hawk had 64 yards rushing. But it was the defense that stole the spotlight yet again.
Thompson finished 12-for-29 passing for 165 yards and four interceptions, but the Vikings couldn’t get their ground game going, only rushing for 103 total yards. Smith had 77 yards receiving.
Dodson said the Vikings had been skirting by with mistakes all season until this game, and he’s just happy to get to the postseason.
“We just get to play another week,” he said.
Siuslaw will host a play-in game this coming week.
North Bend gets an extra week to prepare for its home playoff game, which should be ample time to rest some injuries.
“So hopefully we get some guys healthy,” Prince said.
While Lucero and Matthews were enjoying the victory and basking in a league title, which Siuslaw beat the Bulldogs to win last season, they said they were also looking ahead.
“Now we’ve got two weeks off,” Matthews said. “We need a good week, two weeks, of practice. Give it our all from here on out.”
“We’re going to keep looking forward one game at a time,” Lucero said.