Vikings use a strong rushing attack to take down Hillsboro and pick up their first conference victory
A slew of injuries at the running back position forced Forest Grove football coach Dwight Jensen to go deeper and deeper down his depth chart on Friday night, but that's where he found Jake Bennett.
And the senior was more than happy to carry the load.
Bennett, who started the season as the Vikings' fourth option at tailback, rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown in the second half Friday as Forest Grove pulled away from Hillsboro and earned the team's first win of the season, 25-14.
'Jake has been nursing an ankle injury the last couple weeks, but he really stepped up for us in the third and fourth quarters,' Jensen said.
Pressed into action after starter Jacob LeBrun left Friday's game with a shoulder injury and backup Steven Izquerdo left with an ankle injury, Bennett buoyed the Forest Grove rushing attack and allowed the Vikings to control the tempo in the second half. The senior averaged 7.8 yards per carry and scored on a 15-yard run early in the third quarter that gave Forest Grove a 22-6 lead.
'It's just been unbelievable the number of injuries we've had this year,' said Jensen, who has been without starting running back Jon Dober all season due to a calf injury.
'Once we get back to full force, we're going to be a lot better football team.'
Friday's game got off to a rocky start when Forest Grove quarterback Jesse Zamora had a pass intercepted by Hillhi's Chris Hungerford and returned for a touchdown, putting the Vikings in an early 6-0 hole.
Izquerdo helped dig them out, rushing for 95 yards on 22 carries, mostly in the first half. He led Forest Grove down the field on its next possession, setting up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Zamora to Chris Wertz, and Izquerdo punched in a 1-yard scoring run of his own in the second quarter that gave the Vikings a 14-6 halftime lead.
'The kids faced some adversity early, starting with that pick six and then on our next drive we had two big penalties that could have cost us,' Jensen said. 'But I thought we did a nice job of coming back there and getting that touchdown, and then we pretty much controlled the game from that point on.'
Bennett gave Forest Grove a three-touchdown lead on his scoring run early in the third quarter. Hillsboro got as close as 22-14 on Chance Tsukamoto's touchdown run late in the third, but the Viks were able to control the clock in the second half and Wertz padded the lead with a 31-yard field goal in the final stanza.
'In the second half we were moving the chains and chewing up clock,' Jensen said.
Forest Grove rushed for 198 yards in the game, while the defense limited Hillsboro to just 164 total yards.
The Vikings will be back in action this Friday with a home game against Tigard at 7 p.m.
'It was nice to get that first win,' Jensen said. 'It had been a while. Starting 0-3 didn't feel very good.'