No one on the HRV football roster expects the move to the Intermountain Conference will be easy, but few players doubt that the team will be right in the thick of the playoff race in 2002.
After posting 111 points during their 2-0 start, the Eagles are riding high, and will look to carry that momentum into their first conference game Friday at Summit.
And, while the Storm will be no pushover for the Eagles, the biggest tests are yet to come in the form of Bulldogs, Cowboys, Buckaroos and Lava Bears.
The nicknames are new to most HRV football fans, but they won’t be for long, as seasoned teams from Hermiston, Crook County, Pendleton and Bend await them.
Many experts are saying that the IMC will come down to “Pendleton and the rest.”
The Buckaroos and their all-league performer Brian Nooy, are said to be the team to beat. But, after starting the season with a deflating loss to Lake Oswego, the 2001 state quarterfinalists showed that they are by no means bullet-proof.
Joining Pendleton atop the preseason IMC polls are the Bend Lava Bears, who will run their offense around senior quarterback Brian Cappy and blazing wide receivers Shawn Leever and Justin Fleming. Team speed is the Bears’ biggest strength, and hope to use it to topple Pendleton.
After Pendleton and Bend, the final two playoff berths should become a dogfight between four — maybe five — other teams. HRV will be smack in the middle of the race to state along with Crook County, Redmond, Mountain View and Hermiston.
The Eagles have played Mountain View the past two seasons, and will look for revenge for two difficult, high-scoring losses in 2000 and 2001. The Cougars lost three senior leaders after last year, and are looking at more of a rebuilding year.
Redmond is something of a wild card in the IMC this year. With their newly installed option offense, the Panthers will have to rely on team speed and size to keep them in games.
Another team trying to implement a new offensive set is Crook County, which will look to junior quarterback Chad Swindell to throw downfield and make some big plays. But the Cowboys lack size, and could get outmanned by the larger front lines of Pendleton, Hermiston and HRV.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, HRV is already beginning to prepare for that match-up Sept. 27 in Hermiston. The Bulldogs return two all-leaguers in James Williams and Tyler Hartstein, but may have trouble establishing their run game without an experienced backfield.
Finally, Friday’s opponent Summit is still experiencing some growing pains, but looks to be more of a threat than in 2001, when it went 2-7.
Running back Cole Clemens leads the way for the Storm, which boasts a strong, senior-led offensive line. Some experts are saying that the Storm could be the surprise in the IMC, but the smart money is on HRV to sneak up on the rest of the pack.