SILETZ — The Siletz Warriors are poised for the first time in a decade for a run at the state 1A football title after beating the Waldport Irish 40-34 Friday and setting the stage for a North Vs. South conference playoff Friday at North Douglas High School near Eugene.
“if we win that, we’re off to state,” beamed assistant coach Darin Rilatos after rewinding the nail-biter game flick with Waldport on Monday afternoon.
For the second time in two consecutive games, the Warriors (3-4, 3-2 league) collected over 400 rushing yards, with junior running back Tanner Clark claiming three touchdowns. The hard-fought win marked the third consecutive victory for Siletz, putting them at third place in the North League to face second-place North Douglas of the South in post-season play.
In all, six 1A school districts boast 36 eight-man teams that play by the same rules as 11-man football. Undefeated Dufur reigned atop the 1A in 2018.
“We have one of the biggest, most intimidating lines in the division,” asserted Rilatos of the exceptional blocking that allows for the Warriors’ signature sleight-of-hand, option offense. “Our M.O. is that we pound people with a run-oriented offense, and we have a good quarterback and receivers. If a few plays would have gone differently, we’d be undefeated this year.”
Anchoring the nimble, five-man wall is four-year starter Isaac Hansen, a six-foot, 255-pound “workhorse” center and middle linebacker who serves as one of the team’s leaders. Other key linemen include six-foot, 265-pound wrestler Kenneth Johnston; 240-pound, five-eleven senior Bradlee Robertson; Jonathan Duarte, a six-foot, 240-pound transfer from Toledo; and tight end Xander Sweat, a lanky, six-foot senior who stood out for his tackling ability against Waldport.
Lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with rushers Clark and Joshley Howell, Siletz quarterback Anthony Simmons directs a “power running game” characterized by broken tackles and cleats that never stop pumping until the whistle blows.
That doggedness paid off Friday as the Warriors fought back from deficits time and again to beat the Irish, who scored early on a 42-yard run but were stopped on the conversion attempt. Joshley Howell tied the game on the next drive, an effort that underscored the simple logic of the Warrior offense.
“Control the clock and just give me three-and-half-yards a play,” asserted head coach Reggie Butler, who believes his team can grind down any other challenger by retaining the ball and running down the clock. “But because of the good blocking against Waldport, we were getting 10 or 12 yards a play.”
But those numbers weren’t enough to cheer Butler, who sees North Douglas (5-3, 4-1 league) as the most dangerous opponent Siletz has faced this year. North Douglas’s latest victim was hard-to-beat Mapleton, who had only lost once before but was so beat-up by game’s end they fielded just seven players.
“Their quarterback’s pretty fast, and they’ve got some hard-hitting ends,” he warned his young charges. “These guys like to hit.”
“So do we,” quipped a player in the darkened film room.
The game begins at 7 p.m.