REDMOND — No one on the HRV football team expected that last Friday’s road trip to Redmond would be easy.
And once the Eagles’ 34-30 victory was complete, everyone on the sidelines admitted they didn’t think it would be so hard.
“Those guys were a lot quicker and a lot tougher than we thought they’d be,” senior running back Chris Searles said after his 73-yard, one-touchdown performance helped the Eagles raise their season record to 5-1 (3-1 IMC).
“They came out pretty pumped up after halftime and we had to overcome a hostile environment to win the game.”
After a Herculean effort against Bend last week, the last thing HRV needed in Redmond was a letdown. And, for the first time all season, it wasn’t the Eagles’ offense that carried the team to victory. It was their defense.
Better yet, it was the second consecutive supreme effort by the HRV secondary of Rocky Level, Dominic Buttaccio, Sam Murillo and Ryan Flory.
“Our pass defense is really starting to come together,” said Flory, who made the play of the game early in the fourth quarter to halt a Redmond scoring drive. “We did just enough to win and sort of inched away at the end.”
Unlike the Eagles’ other four wins this season, Friday’s triumph came down to a few key defensive plays; not full-field touchdown runs.
With the score 27-24 and Redmond methodically marching the ball down the field, Flory gave the Eagles a chance to create some breathing room with his 4-and-2 stick on Justin Van Nice at the HRV 36 yardline.
On the ensuing drive, HRV rode the shoulders of Jacobe Krizman, the state’s top rusher, to victory. The senior wing back carried the ball six straight times that drive, and scored his fourth touchdown of the game — his 20th rushing TD on the season — to give HRV a 34-24 lead with 7:11 remaining.
But the defense’s work wasn’t done yet. Redmond’s offense, led by a option quarterback Bruce Warden, running back Branden Carpenter and receiver Sam Huston, was on a roll in the second half and refused to go down easy.
After a nine-play drive, Warden found Huston in the corner of the endzone to put Redmond within four points at 34-30. But their fifth failed point-after try of the night spoiled the Panthers’ chances to narrow the score to a field goal.
Redmond tried an onside kick with 2:26 left, but HRV recovered the ball, and then earned two first downs to run out the clock.
“We dodged a bullet tonight,” HRV coach Mitch Sanders told his players after the game. “We played flat and didn’t execute on offense, and we really need to crank it up next week.”
Sanders said he was impressed with the progress of his defensive backs over the past two games since the team allowed 49 points to Summit on Sept. 20, and 50 points to Hermiston on Sept. 27.
The linebacking corps also put together a monster effort at Redmond, with Matt Cody (16 tackles) and Krizman (12 tackles) leading the way. Defensive tackle Jorge Lujano also recorded 12 tackles on the night.
“Redmond is good at what they do, but I felt like we did a good job of slowing ‘em down,” Sanders said of his defense, which allowed a season-low 118 yards passing and a respectable 342 total yards. “But it’s going to take an even better effort this week if we’re to beat Pendleton.”
The Eagles, whose total offensive output of 396 yards was their second lowest of the season, will host the preseason IMC-favorite Buckaroos on Friday at 7 p.m.
Krizman’s output of 233 yards was his lowest in IMC play, but still enough to raise his state-leading total to 1,483 yards.