Despite a 3-6 record last year, this Friday’s opponent, Bend, was one of the preseason picks to contend for the Intermountain Conference title.
Coming off a 28-18 win over fellow preseason favorite Pendleton, the Lava Bears have already surpassed their win total of 2001, and will look to go 5-0 this Friday when they visit Hood River.
But the HRV Eagles, frustrated after a 50-49 overtime loss to Hermiston, will have a few things to say about that.
“Our offense has yet to be stopped,” said senior wing back Jacobe Krizman. “We feel like we’re one of the teams to beat and we’ve got five more games to prove it.”
Led by senior quarterback Brian Cappy and wide receivers Justin Fleming, Travis Vance and Dan Haley, Bend will bring its high-powered play-action offense into town in hopes of dismantling an HRV pass defense that has yet to play its best game, allowing an average of 258 yards in the first four outings.
However, the Eagles feel they have an advantage with senior cornerback Ryan Flory returning after a deep thigh bruise kept him out the past two games. Sophomore corner Justin Krizman is also gaining experience every game, along with free safety Sam Murillo, who recorded his first interception of the season Friday in Hermiston.
“I think we’ll get it going,” senior linebacker Matt Cody said. “We’re just making too many little mistakes. Too many guys lined up in the wrong spot or missing their assignments. Once we get that ironed out, we’ll even out those defensive stats a bit.”
Cody and the front seven have been one of the best IMC teams against the run in the early season, allowing just 352 yards through three games, but were beat up by Hermiston to the tune of 174 yards on the ground.
They will look to redeem themselves against junior tailback Matt Sieverson (sixth in the IMC with 278 yards through three games) and senior Zach Nutter.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lava Bears are led by linemen Brett Gillespie (6-2, 220) and Brandon Sizemore (6-4, 225), Cappy (6-2, 215) and Steve Bruce (6-0, 210) at linebacker, and Sieverson (6-2, 175), Fleming and Haley in the secondary.
They will be trying to stop the freight train that is Jacobe Krizman, the Eagles’ featured back who has broken the single-game rushing record twice in two weeks, and is attempting to break the school’s season rushing record.
Game time is 7 p.m. Friday at Henderson Stadium.