The North Salem High football team was riding high heading into Friday’s game against Forest Grove.
The Vikings were in the midst of a three-game winning streak for the first time in 11 years, were in third place in the Greater Valley Conference and featured a defense that was second in the state in fewest points allowed.
And they were facing a Forest Grove squad that had lost three games in a row.
Add an enthusiastic homecoming crowd to the equation and North appeared to be in excellent position to extend its winning ways.
But it didn’t work out that way.
Forest Grove (2-3, 1-3), behind a versatile offense led by quarterback Taylor Jensen, prevailed 33-21.
“Forest Grove is diverse, they’re very talented, they’re big on the line, and Jensen’s a heck of a quarterback,” North coach Jeff Flood said.
Jensen completed 12 of 16 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown and ran for two scores.
The game started on a positive note for the Vikings (3-2, 2-2 GVC), who took the opening kickoff and marched 63 yards for a score, culminated by Cristian Maciel’s 8-yard run.
But Tanner Heikes ran for an 80-yard touchdown on Forest Grove’s first offensive play.
North, which had played run-oriented teams in its first four games, struggled defensively in the first half and trailed 20-7 at the break.
The resilient Vikings did not wilt.
Quarterback Hunter Sullivan hit wide receiver Isaiah O’Connell for a 20-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 20-14 with at 4:40 of the third quarter.
After a defensive stop, North had the ball with a chance to take the lead.
But Forest Grove came up with a defensive stand of its own, and regained control on Heikes’ second touchdown of the game, a 14-yard run that made the score 26-14 with 7:06 remaining. Heikes finished with 157 yards rushing.
Forest Grove scored again in the final minute, and Maciel closed the scoring with a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Forest Grove had a 410 total yards to 176 for North.
Despite the setback, the Vikings have made strides this season.
“Things have changed around here,” said Maciel, a senior running back. “North Salem’s not the same football team it was in the past few years.”
That’s a fact.
The Vikings may be undersized in the trenches, but they’re a gritty team that will be looking to bounce back Thursday at West Salem.
“They have nothing to hang their heads about,” Flood said. “They keep fighting every week and that’s all we can ask for.”
North’s schedule gets more difficult in the next three weeks with games against West Salem, South Salem and Sprague.
“From where we started the season (a home loss to McNary) we have done great,” senior linebacker Tyler Borders said. “I’m happy with our three wins, but we have a lot of work to do.”