An incomplete game wasn’t going to be enough against a team fighting to stay in the football state playoff hunt.

South Albany High coach David Younger said his team’s slow starts were eventually going to catch up to the Rebels, and they did Thursday.

A 21-0 first-half deficit was too much to overcome as South fell 28-21 to visiting Silverton in a Mid-Willamette Conference game.

The Rebels (3-4, 3-1) had a chance to wrap up a 5A state playoff berth with a win. But now they’ll face defending state champion Lebanon and conference-leading Crescent Valley to close out the regular season.

“I think it was our mental focus,” said South junior Eli Nafziger of what his team lacked in the first two quarters. “We were feeling really hyped up but I don’t think we went and executed as well as we should have.”

It was the third straight slow start for the Rebels, who fell 42-20 to 6A Glencoe before scoring 15 points in the closing minutes to win 22-18 at MWC foe Dallas last week.

South can still reach the playoffs with a win in its last two games.

Thursday, Silverton (5-2, 3-2) drove 67 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes of the first half to go ahead 21-0.

Camren Hemzacek gave the home team some life by returning the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

The Rebels carried that push into the third quarter, getting a defensive stop and then driving for its first offensive points of the game.

Jake Costello hit Nafziger on a 7-yard slant play for a touchdown.

Younger said his team changed some of its blocking schemes at halftime after the Foxes controlled the lines of scrimmage.

The defense forced another Silverton punt, but the offense turned the ball back over on a fumble. South recovered a Foxes fumble on the next possession, but three plays later Easton Ashwell stepped in front of a Costello pass and returned it 24 yards to the Rebels 31.

Silverton got in the end zone in four plays with a 4-yard run by Hayden Roth, who came up big for the Foxes on the ground after halftime.

The Rebels answered right back, going 69 yards in just under four minutes, with Nafziger hauling in a 29-yard touchdown. He caught the ball near the left sideline, slipped a tackle and scored untouched with 6:18 left.

There was time to get the ball back, but Silverton didn’t give it back.

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The Foxes used 12 straight running plays — moving the chains four times for first downs — before quarterback Levi Nielsen took a knee to take the final seconds off the clock.

Nielsen’s 8-yard run gave Silverton, which ended a two-game losing streak, its final first down. Roth rushed eight times for 63 yards, all in the second half.

The Rebels will try to build on what they accomplished in the second half as they try to reach the postseason for the second time in three years.

“It was definitely something positive to look at and just to keep the momentum that we are the better team, we just have to prove it,” said Nafziger, who had three catches for 58 yards. Costello was 7-of-18 passing for 80 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Cael Matta led South in rushing with 47 yards on 10 carries, including a 37-yarder on his team’s first offensive play of the second half. Costello added 45 yards on 11 attempts.

Anothony Pulido had a team-high 10 tackles for South and Gunner Teem added seven.

Thursday’s game saw the return of Rebels running back Ray Wilson, who missed the last two games with an injury. He had four rushes for 11 yards.

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