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Vikings air it out in victory

Forest Grove football team gets its first win of the season with a 41-13 dismantling of visiting North Salem

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove quarterback Taylor Jensen throws a pass downfield for sophomore running back Tanner Heikes during Friday's football game against North Salem. Jensen passed for three touchdowns and also caught one as the Vikings rolled to a 41-13 victory.The Forest Grove football program had been working toward this moment for weeks.

The payoff finally came last Friday.

Continuing to improve and keeping their heads up during a string of four straight losses to open the season, the Vikings showed just how far they have come, blowing out North Salem 41-13 in a battle of Vikings at Dick Hendricks Stadium.

“Rough road to start, man. We started out with three teams that were ranked at some point in time in the top 10,” Forest Grove head coach Dwight Jensen said. “We got better consistently over the last four weeks and tonight we took another step forward.

“These guys (North Salem) are 2-2 and really haven’t been beat up real bad by anybody, so it was good for us to come out. We made a lot of big plays tonight.”

Indeed, Forest Grove (1-4, 1-3 Greater Valley Conference) made all the notable plays, getting big nights from Taylor Jensen and Cody Fletcher on offense and shutting out North Salem on defense until late in the third quarter.

Jensen and Fletcher traded touchdown passes to each other in the first half, and Justin Brady added a 25-yard field goal on the final play before the intermission to stake Forest Grove to 17-0 lead that the home team had little trouble holding.

“No disrespect to them, they played their hearts out,” Jensen said. “We had a good scheme from our coaches on both sides of the football. We put it together as a team and made some plays.”

One of those plays was the highlight of the first quarter, when Jensen, the team’s quarterback, tossed a screen pass to Fletcher, ran downfield and then got the ball back from his wide receiver for a 15-yard touchdown. The TD reception was his first since the sixth grade, he said.

“That was pretty fun,” Jensen admitted. “Cody threw the ball on a dime.”

Jensen returned the favor in the next quarter, hooking up with Fletcher from 25 yards out on fourth down for a 14-0 advantage with 9:24 left in the half.

When play resumed in the third quarter, Forest Grove kept the heat on, getting a 26-yard field goal from Brady and a 48-yard touchdown pass from Jensen to Tobias King before North Salem found its way onto the scoreboard. That came courtesy of a 5-yard rushing TD from Jared Herrera with 2:40 left in the stanza.

After a missed North Salem PAT, Forest Grove led 27-6. But North Salem could never mount a credible threat, and Doug Deleon soon answered with a 3-yard scoring plunge just 17 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Then the Forest Grove defense got into the act.

On a first down near midfield early in the fourth, North Salem fumbled a lateral that Taylor Hitchcock recovered, to the delight of those on the home sideline. That eventually led to Jensen finding Fletcher again, this time from 12 yards out for a 41-6 lead with 8:30 to play.

Jensen finished the game with 211 yards and three touchdowns on 11-of-18 passing. King had six catches for 134 yards and a score, while Fletcher added two receiving TDs.

North Salem got a Devin Varay rushing score with 2:50 remaining to account for the final score, but it was much too little and much too late.

Afterward, Forest Grove students rushed the field to celebrate with their Vikings, who have been undeterred by their tough early season, including a string of three straight games in which they faced perhaps the top three teams in the GVC.

“I feel like we’ve come together as a group,” Taylor Jensen said. “We weren’t really pointing the fingers, but when a mistake would happen, we (were) like, ‘Who was it?’ instead of, ‘What can I do better to help the play?’ We’ve really come together as a team.”

Not only are the Vikings coming together and getting better, but they are also getting healthy. After the game, Dwight Jensen said he expected for Jakob Orlowsky, Cam Kemper and Marcus Estrada — who all missed Friday’s game or played sparingly due to injury — to bolster the team’s ranks.

Next up for the Vikings is a trip to Keizer to face McNary on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Celtics (3-2, 2-2 GVC) are coming off a 42-39 win over McMinnville.

“We gotta stay healthy, for sure. We’ve got a lot of injured guys, but we can do anything,” King said. “One game at a time.”

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