If someone said Mazama football was going to beat Henley, 50-0, they might have been thought of as crazy.
After how tight the first meeting was between the two teams, 22-21, it would be hard to find someone who predicted Friday night’s OSAA Class 4A State quarterfinal score, let alone, would have wanted to wager any money on it.
The floodgates were open for No. 4 Mazama the entire contest and ran into the state semifinals for the second time in the school’s history after it accumulated 408 rushing yards on 57 carries, eclipsing the usual 320 yards per game it averages.
As predictable as it was, No. 12 Henley had no response for the Mazama plow. Needless to say, the Vikings did not attempt a single pass.
But what was just as impressive as the team’s offense was its defense.
The stage was set, likely the largest crowd in recent years at a football game in the Klamath Basin, and the first playoff meeting between Henley and Mazama.
It was the Viking defense which set the tone for the entire game when Aidan Schram prevented Henley from getting a touchdown while in the red zone on its first series and came up with an interception in the end zone.
Schram ran straight to Henley quarterback, Kyle Hadwick, to comically give him back the football, which was just the first sign that it was going to be a game unlike no other.
Play was stopped twice due to scuffles, and resulted in one unsportsmanlike call, but Mazama let its pesky defense and bulletproof offensive line do the talking.
It was as if Mazama defensive coordinator, Beau Fullerton, and his unit knew each play Hadwick presented and was no exception on the very next defensive series when Buddy Zakour was closely attentive of the football and intercepted before he took off and ran past the white and blue colored end zone.
The fumble recoveries by Zach Landry and Bill Miller only left Henley more puzzled.
Fullerton could not hold back his excitement and, after his team’s last fumble recovery and on a stop on third down during the fourth quarter, jumped up high in the air to express his content with his players.
“We were looking at some of the things we have done defensively in our last game that hurt us and we wanted to correct those things,” Fullerton said. “We knew they were going to get yards and we had to bend but not break. We kept them out of the end zone, which was just huge.”
With such a mobile quarterback as Hadwick and knowing Henley’s top running back, Will Conrad, was going to be a force, Fullerton said he wanted to make sure to stop the run to force Hadwick to throw more.
It worked. Hadwick completed just 5-of-14 passes for 55 yards. Conrad was held to 38 yards on 13 carries.
The Vikings might have one of the most structured defenses in 4A football and are the only team thus far in the playoffs, in any classification, to hold off their opponent from scoring a point.
Henley’s opening drive was the closest the team got of the end zone and were limited to 112 yards of total offense, a week removed when it had 544 total yards against No. 5 Seaside in the second round.
Mazama was sturdy as Henley failed on all three of its attempts on fourth down, and were successful 3-of-10 times on third down.
In the Vikings first playoff game last week, they held No. 13 South Umpqua to a mind-boggling 22 yards total offense, 0-of-10 passes and three first downs.
Fullerton has been an original defensive coordinator alongside five-year head coach, Vic Lease.
It isn’t the first time Fullerton and his defense have been noticed. The last three years, Mazama has given up the fewest points among the 4A level during the regular season.
The statement was made as the Hornet offense, who averages 35 points per game, was shutout for the first time this season.
Mazama’s defense combined for 38 tackles against Henley.
Landry was all over the field and led his team with six tackles.
Each Viking had their fair share of bringing the Hornets down on the mud with Hunter Conrad, Christian Kasper, Bowen Hunt, Schram and Miller each having four tackles.
Getting a chance
Zakour has made a way to find a role on the Vikings after he first was on offense to start out the year.
The Mazama junior attempted to be one of Lease’s first options at running back, but with a depth chart already full of runners, suddenly found himself without a role on the team.
He stared and watched on the sidelines the following game before Fullerton noticed the agility he could bring on the opposite side of the football.
Zakour was given an opportunity once more and has since been a bother to opposing teams as one of the first options at linebacker.
“Jake Healy is my eyes out there and is making the calls and adjustments, while (Aidan) Schram has been our secondary call guy,” Fullerton said. “As soon as he (Zakour) moved over to defense, he has been a middle linebacker that has been instrumental and made a couple of the big stops we had today. “He made best of the opportunity and voiced to me that he wanted to play. He isn’t the kind of person that will let you down and has been key in making our defense deadly.”