HRV placekicker Jordan Thompson understands pressure. He's been in game-winning situations many times before, just not on the football field.
The two-sport athlete has spent most of his time the past three seasons helping win games for the boys soccer team. But Friday night he had a chance to win a crucial Mt. Hood Conference football game against preseason league favorite Central Catholic.
And he made good -- twice -- as HRV won the back-and-forth battle 31-29 at Henderson Stadium.
Down 29-28 with under eight minutes to go, the Eagles drove the entire length of the field to set up a do-or-die field goal attempt from 20 yards. Thompson calmly stepped up and delivered what the crowd thought was the game winner, but an offsides call on Central Catholic before the snap forced Thompson to rekick, and the HRV fans to sweat it out.
Unrattled, Thompson finished what he started with just 11 seconds to play, giving Hood River its first win, and sending the Rams to their third straight defeat.
"That last drive was key," HRV coach Mitch Sanders said. "We showed a lot of confidence in our kids to get us into scoring position. We knew the only thing that could beat us was a fumble, and the running backs maintained their focus well."
Not surprisingly, the Eagles' win can be attributed to the resurgence of the running game. After registering just 204 yards on the ground versus Dallas last week, the trio of Wes Martens, Jacobe Krizman and James Maher combined for a whopping 498 yards and four touchdowns against the Rams.
Martens simply couldn't be stopped, tearing through the Rams' defense 38 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He also played solid on the defensive side, making multiple stops for a loss in the backfield.
Krizman carried the ball 20 times for 148 yards, and made a key interception in the third quarter to set up a score. Maher ran 16 times for 69 yards and a touchdown, and also helped bolster the linebacking corps.
Quarterback Jarrod Fogle played solid and made some key blocks in the backfield. He went 0-3 on pass attempts, but two were long bombs that went in and out of the hands of Martens.
"Sometimes the toughest catch is the one that's right in your hands," Sanders said. "But we're not worried about Wes. He's a runner, and a darn good one. He'll make those catches as the season goes on."
One pass that was right out of the hands -- and straight in the heart -- of the Eagles was Central Catholic's first play from scrimmage. Rams tailback Chad Appleton caught a screen pass from QB Ryan Gunderson and turned the corner, going 80 yards for a touchdown, and giving the Eagles more than a few concerns before they even touched the ball.
But having the ball in their hands was the key for the Eagles, as they controlled the clock the entire game and eventually wore down Central Catholic in the second half.
"After the first series, our kids figured out that they were more physical than them," Sanders said. "So we just started taking it to 'em and slowly broke 'em down."
HRV's defense picked itself up after a tough opening drive to maintain the 7-0 deficit long enough for the offense to get on the board. The Rams continued to pound out big runs, but the defense was up to the task.
On the Rams' second series -- just when it looked like Central might break the game open -- the Eagles' defense came alive. Maher stopped KJ Glennon in the backfield for loss on first down, then Martens batted away a pass on second to set up 3rd and 10. Unfazed by the Rams' imposing front line, HRV defensive end Zack Lucas barreled through the line for a sack, which forced the Rams to punt.
Two series later, Martens busted through a hole around the right side for a 40-yard score, putting HRV within one point. Central scored on another big play -- a 60-yard run by Glennon -- before half to make it 14-6, but Martens again made the Rams pay just three minutes into the second.
After three big runs by Krizman -- 20, 15 and 20 yards -- Martens lowered his shoulder into the line, bounced outside and scored from 25 yards. He added the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14-14.
Hood River continued to pound away with solid defense and the running game in the third quarter, taking the lead 21-14 on a two-yard run by Maher. Just one minute later, Central evened the score on Gunderson's 20-yard TD pass to Demarcus White.
The two heavyweights continued to exchange blows into the fourth quarter. Martens scored on an end-around at the ten-minute mark to make it 28-21.
But Central battled back to take the lead on the next drive with a touchdown and two-point conversion by Glennon, setting up the most important drive of the Eagles' season.
Martens and Maher traded carries to get HRV into scoring position -- the big play an 18-yard scramble by Martens around the right side to the Central 37-yard line. Maher converted a key 3rd and 9 to the 8-yard line to preserve the drive with 1:28 to play.
A few more short runs got the Eagles down to the 2, but an offsides call pushed them back to the 7. Thompson, however, didn't care whether the kick was from the 2 or the 7. He slammed the ball through the uprights to cap a superb all-around team performance and give the team huge momentum heading into Friday's road game against Barlow.