KLAMATH FALLS -- If the old mantra "defense wins championships" rings true, the 2017 Mazama Vikings just might make school history Saturday afternoon. Coming off two straight shutouts, the No. 4 Vikings will take on 10-0, top-ranked Cottage Grove at Grants Pass High School Saturday in the 4A state semifinals.
Mazama has never played for a state title game and to play for one this year, they will have to stop a Lions team averaging nearly 50 points a game this season.
"It'll be tough. We know they have weapons all over the field," head coach Vic Lease said, "They have a good running back, their quarterback throws very well, and they have receivres that can get open. They have great speed, good hands, and they're very athletic."
With an offense running at peak efficiency and milking as much clock as possible, the Vikings hope having the ball in their hands will act as a second defense against the strong attack of the Lions.
"If we can control the game, set the tempo, and set the pace early, we usually control the game," senior quarterback Brandon McVey said.
"If their offense is standing on the sideline, they're not scoring points," Lease added.
That's been this team's philosophy since Lease and his staff arrived in 2013. It almost paid off instantly as the Vikings reached the state semifinals and lost 41-40 to North Bend in 2014. The older guys on this year's team look up to the players from that team and want to show they can finish what they started three years ago.
"That team was unbelievable. We want to prove that we can do better and I think we can do it," McVey said.
"It's everything. Everything we do is for the guys who wore the jersey before us," junior linebacker Jake Healy said, "It's about taking pride and making them look better, because they're the reason we wanted to play football."
Now, very much on everyone's radar statewide, Mazama feels they have put themselves on the map, somewhere they weren't just five years ago.
"When we came here, we wanted to put Mazama on the map and we believe that we're doing that," Lease said, "People know where Mazama is now."
"That's the goal every year. We want to make the guys up north say 'Hey, check out this Mazama team,'" Healy said.
Even more will be checking out the Vikings on the state's biggest stage a week from Saturday if they can slow down Cottage Grove's high-powered offense.
"We all know, we're only the second team in the history of Mazama football to ever make it this far," Lease said.
"We'd like to go a little further."