Irresistible force meets the immovable object Saturday in Baker City
By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
It's the irresistible force against the immovable object.
The "force" is third-ranked Siuslaw's high-powered offense, averaging 41.8 points a game.
The "object" is fifth-ranked Baker's defense, best in the 3A allowing just 6.3 points a game (only 5 points a game against 3A opponents).
They meet Saturday in the Class 3A state quarterfinal football game at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
Those numbers are for the fans' consideration. Baker coach Dave Johnson said he doesn't look at the statistics all that much when preparing for an opponent.
"We're going to play the game we've played the last nine games," he said. "We don't pay attention to the stats.
"The bottom line is if we do what we do well, we'll win. If we don't, we'll be second."
Baker (8-1) has won five straight games since losing to Vale in the Bulldogs' final preseason game. Baker went undefeated in winning the Greater Oregon League championship.
Siuslaw (9-1) finished second in the Sky-Em League. The Vikings advanced to play Baker after stopping Tillamook 31-15 in a wet, sloppy game last weekend.
In that game, Siuslaw led just 17-12 and Tillamook drove to the Viking 3. There Tillamook lost a fumble, and two plays later Siuslaw scored on a 95-yard TD pass to break the game open.
Baker relies on defense
The Bulldogs' top-ranked defense is led by GOL Defensive Player of the Year Brett Smith at linebacker and a wall of all-league players.
Linebacker Garrette Smith, Cliff DeMastus and Tommy Ewing on the line, and Casey Mitchell in the secondary joined Brett Smith on the GOL first team. Lineman Reggie Hill and backs Billy Phillips and Kyle Johnson were named to the second team.
Named to the first team offense were Brett Smith on the line, Ewing at center, running back Cody Taylor, and Phillips at receiver. Selected to the second team offense were Mitchell at quarterback, lineman John Brose, receivers Matt Bunch and Johnson, and Garrette Smith at running back. Receiving honorable mention were running back Trevor Taylor, lineman Eugene Markgraf and DeMastus at tight end.
Siuslaw has weapons as well
"Siuslaw has a pretty prolific offense," Johnson said. "They have a good quarterback, good running backs and a pair of pretty good receivers."
The Vikings are led by quarterback Gabe Haberly. A year ago, he set Siuslaw single-season passing records, throwing for 2,052 yards and 27 touchdowns. His high game of 305 yards against LaPine also is a school record.
Haberly also ran for 14 touchdowns, tied for 10th in the school list.
Running backs Danny Lehman and Kirk Wilson line up behind Haberly. Lehman led the team a year ago with 897 yards on the ground.
Jared Kreil is the top returning receiver, catching 49 balls for 808 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago.
Tanner Holton and speedster Chris Voogd are the other top receivers.
Center Jon Gates, Justin Carnahan and Joel Torgison return to anchor the offensive line.
Most of the same players anchor the Vikings' defense.
"They're going to take what you give them," Johnson said. "They run a veer look, and that tests defenses. It makes you run a disciplined defense, which is what we've preached all season."
Not the first meeting
Baker and Siuslaw have met before in the playoffs, in 1988. Baker won that meeting 17-14 and went on to play Philomath in the Class 3A semifinals.
Weather: factor or not
Game-time weather predictions are for temperatures in the mid-30s and dry.
"It might be kind of fun to have a little snow," Johnson joked. "For my own comfort I'd prefer 45 to 50 degrees and sunshine.
"I don't really think the weather will play a role in the outcome," he said. "They're going to play, and we're going to play ball.
"We're mentally and physically on good shape. There's been no problems from having a week off. As I've said all season, these guys are gamers," Johnson said.
The Baker coach said hosting the playoff game is not only great for his team, but also great for the community and the school.
"They've earned it," he said.