PRINEVILLE — It was only fitting that HRV’s biggest test of the season came against Crook County, because those crooked Cowboys almost stole a critical Intermountain Conference game from the Eagles last Friday night.
Down two points with only seconds to play, Crook County quarterback, Chad Swindle, hurled a 24-yard pass to Mike Tracy in the endzone. But after a mad scramble, the pass fell incomplete and HRV hung on to win its seventh game of the season, 36-34.
“It seems like we only make the big plays when we absolutely have to,” said senior running back and linebacker Jacobe Krizman. “If we can make the plays sometimes, why can’t we make them all the time? What this game really came down to was our kicker.”
Krizman and the Eagles felt that the game should have never come down to Nolan Johnson’s game-winning field goal or Crook County’s final play. But if Swindle’s last-second heave had landed in Tracy’s mitts, the Eagles could have been staring at a very complicated playoff picture.
“We’ve got guys covering the wrong players, missing assignments, missing tackles. Everyone just seemed out of place,” Krizman said. “We need to pick up the intensity big-time because if we play like that against Mountain View, it could be a long night.”
As it turns out, Friday’s home game against Mountain View is the Eagles’ most important to date. A win and they would host a first-round playoff game on Nov. 8. A loss, and they would travel.
“We’re motivated more than ever now,” Krizman said. “We played such a bad game against Crook County, and the hardest thing is, we know we’re just stopping ourselves.”
Senior lineman Nate Dethman agreed.
“We’re relieved to get a win, but the last few games haven’t really been us,” he said in reference to the Redmond and Pendleton games that led up to Friday’s close call in Prineville.
“We have a tendency to not start well, and we need to fix that. Instead of starting the game at halftime, we need to show up to play from the opening kickoff,” he said.
Dethman and Krizman admitted the team was distracted in practice last week, and that a lack of focus Monday through Thursday had a direct effect on the team’s play.
“Our ‘D’ just didn’t come to play,” said Krizman, who led the team in tackles with 14. “The main thing this week is going to be to get our defense going.”
Coach Mitch Sanders said that Friday’s game was a step back for his Eagles, but he also gave credit to the Crook County coaching staff for mixing things up.
“They did a lot of things that we didn’t even see on the film,” Sanders said. “They abandoned their base offense and went more to an I-back formation. We didn’t anticipate those changes and it almost cost us a big game.”
The Eagles defense will try to ratchet it up a few notches in practice this week as they prepare for a surprising Mountain View squad, which has reeled off three straight IMC wins after starting 1-2.
“They’re picking it up on offense lately and we’ve been struggling on defense,” Sanders said, “so we’re going to have to play our best game to beat them.”
See page A9 for a preview of Friday night’s matchup.