Bulldogs can’t get final bite in loss to Vikings

In an early battle of league positioning in the Mountain Valley Conference, the Siuslaw Vikings traveled to Creswell to take on the Bulldogs. While it took a few minutes for the offensive fireworks to get going between the two teams, the game didn’t slow down from there.

The Bulldogs, who were 3-1 overall on the season and were coming off a victory over Elmira last week, struck first. With 4:50 left in the first quarter, Bulldogs senior quarterback Connor Hanson showed off his athleticism with a long touchdown run to put Creswell up 7-0.

Siuslaw, who was 2-2 before their road trip to Creswell, and coming off a win over Harrisburg, responded using senior running back Ian Sissel early and often. Sissel would use a 22-yard rush to help get the Vikings to the Bulldog 30-yard line. It wouldn’t be long after that Sissel would find the endzone to give the Vikings an 8-7 lead after a successful two-point conversion. 

On the Bulldogs’ next possession, it appeared Siuslaw would get the Bulldogs off the field, but Creswell went for it on fourth down with two yards to go from their own 46-yard line. The gamble paid off. Once again, Hanson scrambled for a 54-yard touchdown, barely being touched, putting Creswell up 13-8 early in the second quarter.

When it wasn’t Sissel finding the endzone for the Vikings, senior running back Odin Smith was. He would score next for Siuslaw, putting Siuslaw up 16-13, again scoring a two-point conversion.  After that things would get chippy between the two teams.

At one point, a Siuslaw player had a Bulldogs player pinned on the ground. A Bulldog player who was standing on the sidelines came over and pushed the Vikings player away. Several flags were thrown as talk between the teams continued. The Bulldogs would punt the ball away and the Vikings appeared to have some momentum, still trailing 16-13.

With 2:54 left in the first half, the Vikings had the ball after a 44-yard punt by Creswell from their own 1-yard line. Flags continued to fly as the Bulldogs were called for a facemask and the Vikings were called for a false start. Nonetheless, the Vikings advanced the ball deep in Bulldogs territory, but turned it over on downs.

It appeared Creswell would go into the locker trailing, but they wouldn’t let their next possession go empty. Hanson, who already had scored two rushing touchdowns, scrambled out of the pocket with 23 seconds left to throw a 76-yard bomb for a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 20-16 lead at halftime.

Siuslaw came out determined in the second half. Rather than kick it away to Creswell, Viking Head Coach Sam Johnson elected to go for an on-side kick to start the second half. It paid off as Siuslaw recovered the kick at the Bulldogs 31-yard line.

“We tried to get back to who we are with the onside kicks. We did it in our state championship last year. We decided we are going to go after teams. We are not going to let you beat us sitting back and throwing the ball. That’s kind of our mentality — you are going to have to come out fists up and guns blazing,” Johnson said.

The Vikings were able to get the ball inside the Creswell five-yard line, but the Vikings fumbled the ball away.

Creswell was unable to do much with the ball and had to punt it away. Siuslaw would use a long drive, mostly consisting of runs by Sissel, to find the endzone, putting the Vikings up 24-20 in the third quarter. Siuslaw would again elect for an onside kick, which they recovered. Siuslaw appeared to be literally running away with the game with Sissel being used on sweep runs and Smith being used on power runs up the middle to close out the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, things got very interesting. Vikings freshman quarterback Micah Blankenship used a QB sneak at the goal line to put Siuslaw up 32-20 with 9:31 left in the game.

However, the Bulldogs would not stop fighting.

Hanson threw a 46-yard touchdown to Tyler Bowers to keep Creswell’s hopes alive, with the score now sitting at 32-27, Vikings advantage with 8:08 left to play. The Bulldogs defense again continued to struggle with the running game of Sissel, who used a big rush from the Vikings 40-yard line to get inside the 10.

Bulldogs’ fans were unhappy, as it appeared on the next play that a Vikings player fumbled the ball and was recovered by Creswell, but the play was called dead by the referees. Siuslaw scored on the next play to build their advantage to a 40-27 score with 7:29 remaining. But the Bulldogs still had fight in them. 

The Vikings forced Creswell to fourth and five, but Hanson scrambled for 60-yards and a touchdown, Hanson’s third rushing touchdown of the game. With 6:53 left, the Bulldogs trailed 34-40. Creswell attempted an onside kick, but the Vikings recovered.

From there, the Vikings attempted to play keep away from the Bulldogs, draining as much clock as possible by running the ball and forcing the Bulldogs to use their timeouts. With 1:10 left in the game, Creswell looked like they might have had one more chance at getting the ball back when they forced Siuslaw into a fourth and 11 from the Bulldogs 20-yard line. But Blankenship and the Vikings’ offense appeared to confuse the Creswell defense and Blankenship passed for a wide-open touchdown to junior tight end Dayne Muller, giving the Vikings a 46-34 lead, one the Bulldogs were not able to overcome.

“It’s something we’ve worked on for two and a half years with our kids, putting that play in,” Johnson said. “Kids know how to run it and they love running it. We felt great going to our running back or our tight end on that. We let our freshman quarterback make a big play in that situation. We’ve said it since we got here as a staff — we are going to trust our kids. That’s one where you put trust in a 14-year-old kid and make him make a play.”

Creswell falls to 1-1 in the Mountain Valley Conference and will play at Sisters next Friday night. Siuslaw improves to 2-1 in league play and returns home to take on the Elmira Falcons next week. The Falcons improved to 2-3 after beating Pleasant Hill 39-0.