PHILOMATH — Sweet Home High was taking what the defense was giving, getting hard-earned yards on the ground and big chunks with Aiden Tyler tosses over the top to Nathan Virtue.
Philomath tried to hold its ground on defense but gave up too many big plays to make it interesting late.
The visiting Huskies got 110 rushing yards from Hayden McDonald and four touchdown passes from Tyler to Virtue in a 32-14 Oregon West Conference football win at Clemens Field.
McDonald, a senior running back, likes the options his offense has to move the ball, especially when a defense keys on the run.
“Because we’ve got the athletes to go out there and catch balls and quarterbacks that throw the ball,” McDonald said.
Virtue was the recipient of that and had what Huskies coach Dustin Nichol called a “highlight reel.”
The senior wide receiver finished with five catches for 186 yards and the four scores. Three of the touchdowns came in the second half.
“They were playing press coverage on him, he would make a move on them and then Aiden would throw it out there for him,” Nichol said.
Tyler was playing in relief of starter Colton Smith, who injured his elbow in last week’s game against Cascade. Tyler was 11-of-26 passing for 274 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Smith is expected to return next week.
One of the biggest plays of the game came on the opening kickoff.
Sweet Home’s Lance Hanson returned the ball all the way to the Philomath 5. That set up a 1-yard touchdown run three plays later.
Michael Lundy, who was set to be the Warriors’ starting quarterback, was knocked out of the first half with an arm injury on the kickoff.
Calvin Snuggerud played in his place and Lundy returned in the second half after he was cleared.
Sweet Home (4-2, 3-0 Oregon West) used four plays on its next drive to score again. McDonald’s 16-yard run got the Huskies going, and Virtue hauled in his first touchdown, a 45-yarder.
McDonald got his 110 yards and a score on 16 carries. He also had an 18-yard reception.
“He’s an instinctive running back and a really good athlete. He makes me look good,” Nichol said.
Philomath (2-4, 0-3) couldn’t get much going on offense, and Sweet Home took advantage. Virtue caught another Tyler deep ball down the sideline, this time from 73 yards out, to make it 20-0 at halftime.
Virtue also scored on the Huskies’ first possession of the second half. His 27-yard catch put Sweet Home in full control.
Philomath had one of its best drives of the game midway through the third quarter but turned the ball over on downs after reaching the Sweet Home 20.
It was defense that got the Warriors on the scoreboard first as Marshall Brattain picked off a Tyler pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.
Brattain, a senior linebacker, also had a fumble return for a score against Siuslaw.
“Most of the time we’re stunting those guys and that time we dropped them into coverage,” Warriors coach Tony Matta said of his linebackers. “(Brattain) just happened to be in the right spot and made a great play.”
Teammate Jeremy Alston had a first-half interception.
Sweet Home scored once more, going 77 yards with Virtue capping the drive with a 27-yard touchdown.
Philomath answered back with Snuggerud’s 27-yard touchdown run off a quarterback trap play.
Matta said his team has been unintentionally one-dimensional this season, unable to find much success through the air. The Warriors had just 2 yards passing in last week’s shutout loss at Stayton.
But they focused in this week’s practices on spreading the field in order to provide more running room.
Not much came out of running the ball, with a Snuggerud 19-yarder and a Lundy 18-yarder being the highlight plays.
But the passing game showed promise.
“We had guys open. We need to do a better job of catching the football,” Matta said. “We got guys out of the box, and our pass protection was better than it’s been.”