LEBANON — South Albany High took a 14-0 lead into the fourth quarter and then held off a furious rally by Lebanon High to take a 21-19 victory in Mid-Willamette Conference football action Friday night.
The RedHawks started the game by recovering an onside kick. That gambit didn't pay off immediately but it was ultimately rewarded. South Albany's drive stalled but the ensuing punt trapped the Warriors near their own goal line.
That created a defensive opportunity for the RedHawks and Tyler Seiber's 13-yard interception return for a touchdown put them out front early. South Albany added a short touchdown run in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead. A missed field goal attempt by the Warriors rounded out the half.
Lebanon rallied after halftime. The Warriors got on the board with a 1-yard scoring run by quarterback Andreus Smith early in the fourth quarter. Brayden Currey then caught a 6-yard touchdown pass as the Warriors trailed 14-13.
A 28-yard scoring run by Seiber stretched the RedHawks' lead to 21-13.
That left the Warriors with just enough time to make a final push. Lebanon advanced to the South Albany 35 and on an untimed down at the end of the fourth quarter, Brayden Currey caught a touchdown pass in the end zone.
That left the Warriors with the all-important 2-point conversion to tie the contest. South Albany's Avery Adams broke up a pass intended for Currey to preserve the RedHawks' victory.
RedHawks offensive coordinator Chad Peck said running the football was a key aspect of the night. Winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and making short but steady gains was all part of the plan.
“That 17-play, 80-yard drive — that was big. That’s what we want to be offensively,” Peck said.
He applauded the offensive’s line’s performance, saying they kept everything moving consistently, particularly the wing backs blocking on the edge.
Peck said South Albany wanted to open up the passing game more, but once they got going on the ground it became a matter of grinding the clock down. He added that the receivers, who haven’t had as much action as he would like, are doing a great job blocking downfield.
“From an execution standpoint, we knew they would be very physical and they’re pretty athletic,” Warriors head coach Troy Walker said. “Our defense and special teams played phenomenal, kept us in the ball game.”
Being within two points in the last minutes of the game on the strength of some spectacular plays, including a leaping touchdown reception, Walker said it was a pretty wild emotional roller coaster to finish off the evening. He credited the steady morale of his athletes in the face of adversity.
“I appreciate the kids’ effort and their ability to continue to fight and not give up,” Walker said. “This is one they wanted.”
South Albany (3-1, 1-1 MWC) faces visiting Dallas at 7:30 p.m. next Friday. Lebanon (1-3, 1-1) will host Corvallis with kickoff at 7 p.m.
Cody Mann covers the cities of Albany and Lebanon. He can be contacted at 541-812-6113 or Cody.Mann@lee.net.