Forest Grove bounces back from last week's loss with a pivotal Pacific Conference win over Century on homecoming weekend
by: Chase Allgood Forest Grove running back Jon Dober (24) runs through the tackle of Century’s Dominic Akina during Thursday’s Pacific Conference football game. Dober, in his first game back from a leg injury, rushed for 102 yards in a 21-14 Viking win.

With a few key players back in the lineup and their season-long injury woes apparently behind them, the Forest Grove football team made a strong statement on Thursday with a gritty 21-14 Pacific Conference victory over Century on homecoming weekend.

Forest Grove (2-5, 2-3) scored three first-half touchdowns - two coming on interception returns, including a 37-yard pick-six by Jesse Zamora on the final play of the half - to take a 21-0 lead, and the Viking defense held firm over the game's final eight minutes after Century (5-2, 3-2) cut the lead to seven in the third quarter.

'I thought the offense did a real good job of controlling the ball and keeping it out of (Century's) hands, and I thought the defense played exceptional,' said Forest Grove coach Dwight Jensen, whose team forced five turnovers and enjoyed a more than 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession.

'It was an important win for us. We're right in the playoff mix now, and the next two weeks will be just as important because we'll be playing for a (first-round) bye.'

Forest Grove's win created a logjam in the middle of the Pacific Conference standings, with four teams now tied for fourth place at 2-3. The league's top four teams get byes in the play-in round of the Class 6A state playoffs, while the four bottom finishers must earn their way into the postseason.

'It would have been big last week if we could have gotten that win against Newberg, because we'd be tied for third,' Jensen said. 'There's a lot of teams in our situation right now, so we just have to focus on getting better every week and finishing the season strong.'

The Vikings came out strong on Thursday and gave the large homecoming crowd plenty to cheer about as they picked off three passes in the first half and built a 21-0 lead.

Jake Bennett opened the scoring in the first quarter when he stepped in front of a pass from Century quarterback Brad Bennett and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, giving Forest Grove an early 7-0 lead.

Meanwhile, the Viking offense got a spark from the return of senior running back Jon Dober, who missed the team's first six games with a leg injury. In his first game back, Dober rushed 21 times for a team-high 102 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter that nudged Forest Grove's lead to 14-0.

'Having Jon Dober back really brought up our level of play,' Jensen said. 'That was a big boost for us.'

Zamora provided the first-half dagger when he intercepted a Bennett pass on the last play of the half and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown, staking the Viks to a three-score lead at the break.

Century rallied in the third quarter, scoring on a 33-yard pass from Bennett to Xavier Mitchell and a 1-yard run from Bryce Viglione, but that was all the Forest Grove defense would allow. The Jaguars threatened late in the fourth quarter by driving inside the red zone with less than two minutes remaining, but Zamora clinched the win with his second interception of the game.

Altogether, the Vikings intercepted four passes and forced one fumble, allowing Century just 15 minutes of possession in the game.

'The big thing was time of possession,' Jensen said. 'We held the ball for 33 of 48 minutes, so we were able to keep their offense off the field.'

Forest Grove's offense flourished with the return of Dober and sophomore receiver Blake Cox, who was back in the starting lineup after breaking his arm earlier this year. Cox, who has played defense the past few weeks with a cast on his arm, returned to the offensive side of the ball and caught four passes for 55 yards. Dober had five receptions for 65 yards, giving him 167 yards of total offense in the game.

'We're finally starting to get some guys back on the field,' Jensen said. 'If we can stay healthy and keep improving every week, then we hope to be playing our best football at the end of the year, and that's always your goal.'

Next up for the Vikings is a road trip to Tualatin (5-2, 4-1) on Friday. The Timberwolves currently sit in second place in the conference and have allowed just 17 points in their five wins this season.

'We've just got to keep playing good football and tackle well,' Jensen said. 'We can't give up too many big plays.'

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