Newberg suffocates South Salem in opener
With the evening sun falling behind the rolling hills of Chehalem Mountain, anticipation filled the air once again on Friday night at Newberg High School. Football season was back in full force as students and parents packed into the bleachers at Loran Douglas Field.
The Tigers embraced the electricity and turned in a quality performance, dispatching the South Salem Saxons 42-16 thanks to a dominant offensive line and stingy defense. The Saxons' struggles to produce anything on offense didn't hurt, either.
After South Salem lost a fumble on its first drive attempting a backward pass, Newberg got the scoring started in the first quarter. Sophomore running back Price Pothier punched it in from a yard out to make it 7-0 Tigers.
Newberg surrendered its first points of the game at the midway point of the first quarter. With 5:50 remaining in the frame, an errant snap sailed over the punter's head and back through the end zone for a safety. The Tigers led 7-2 before their defense got a stop and sparked another scoring drive.
Sophomore quarterback Levi Durrell – who won the job under center after a close competition with two of his teammates – found junior wideout Owen Hawley for the 31-yard score to make it 14-2 Newberg through one quarter.
Much of Newberg's offensive success – both through the air and on the ground – came as a result of its linemen getting a strong push up front. The Tigers return plenty of experience in the trenches and it showed.
"They did fantastic today," Durrell said of his offensive line. "With our offense, they really control the ball. They did that tonight and it's nice to have them in front of me."
While the Newberg defense had a strong outing, it surrendered a touchdown to South Salem in the early part of the second quarter. Later on, Pothier scored again on a 13-yard run to bring the game to its halftime score of 21-9.
It took until the 8:30 mark of the third quarter for the Tigers to blow the game open. After fumbling on one of its offensive drives, Newberg capitalized on yet another fumble by South Salem attempting a backwards pass, only this time the Tigers had a chance to run it back.
Junior safety Dylan Stroup scooped the ball up and ran it back for a touchdown from about 30 yards out, eliciting roars from his teammates on the sideline and the raucous student section behind them. It was 28-9 Newberg as the Saxons appeared frustrated.
"Our defense rose to the occasion quite a bit," Newberg coach Kevin Hastin said. "I like our team speed on defense, but we've got to get better. We're definitely not satisfied even though we played well, so it's back to work."
Five additional minutes came off the clock in the third before Newberg tacked on another score: A 10-yard run by senior Justin Holtan to make it 35-9. On the very first play of the fourth quarter, the lead ballooned.
Backup quarterback Gavin Korkeakoski, a sophomore, entered the game and threw a 54-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Dwayne Buck, who burned his man and streaked down the sideline just in time to catch the ball in stride. 42-9 Newberg marked the largest lead of what ended up being a fun night for the Tigers.
South Salem scored a touchdown on senior Reign Bryant's two-yard run with less than two minutes left, but it was all for naught as Newberg prevailed and rushed to greet its student section. After plenty of cheers and chants, the team rushed to ring the bell and celebrate starting the season 1-0.
"This team is hyped," Durrell, a transfer to Newberg by way of Yamhill-Carlton, said. "We had a lot of build-up to this game and we came out ready. We've got the Newberg Nation out here cheering for us and that really gets us going.
"I think we were all a little nervous and a little antsy coming in, but coach had a fantastic game plan and our line came out and dominated. We were the more physical team and we dominated the ball offensively."
Other than some special teams struggles – including a negative-one-yard punt – Hastin was pleased with the overall effort of his team in game one. Next week, Newberg travels to Portland for a date with Grant – who the Tigers beat 28-0 last year.
Hastin said the resilience and poise of his team is what stood out most on the first Friday night of the season – one of many more to come as the weather grows colder and the importance of each game grows.
"I like how we came back strong in the second half and played the game the right way," Hastin said. "We made some mistakes early on and didn't execute that well in the first half, but we came out in the second half and played good football."
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