BEND — The game plan was to stop Matt Sieverson and exploit the inexperienced Bend defense. The rest, HRV hoped, would take care of itself.
But instead of the Eagles coming home with a 3-0 league record, it was the Lava Bears who took the inside track to the Intermountain Conference title, beating HRV on both sides of the ball for a 28-23 win at Bend High.
“You can chalk this one up to a lack of execution on our part,” said HRV coach Mitch Sanders, whose team totaled 324 yards and gave up 413, including 241 to Sieverson, the state’s leading rusher after five games. “We didn’t run our base offense well, and that cost us the game,” he said.
Lack of execution and the inability to stop the streaking Sieverson, whose 64-yard scramble with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the game winner.
Leading 23-22 after three quarters, the Eagles caught a break at the 7:56 mark of the fourth, when linebacker Luke McCarthy forced a fumble that was recovered at midfield by Zach Royall.
But the offense sputtered on the ensuing possession and HRV was forced to punt after a three-and-out series.
Then, on the second play of Bend’s drive, Sieverson broke free around left tackle and sprinted past the HRV secondary for his third score of the game.
“Our line left way too many holes,” said senior lineman Jorge Lujano. “We just got tired in the second half, and their running back took advantage.”
Lujano explained that he and the defense were perhaps too concerned with Sieverson, and once Bend opened up its passing game, that made him even more of a threat.
However, despite falling behind late, the Eagles did have a chance to regain the lead. Starting at their own 20 yardline, HRV fought its way upfield for two first downs. Kyle Maurer’s first down at 2:20 put HRV in business at its own 47 yardline. But a bad snap sent HRV back to the 41, setting up a crucial 3rd and 15 play.
The Eagles gained six yards, and were forced to air it out on the final play of the game. However, Dominic Buttaccio’s pass was intercepted with 20 seconds remaining, and the Lava Bears began to celebrate.
“My hat’s off to them,” Sanders said. “They played a good game, and stopped us on offense after the first few drives. But I would say it’s more of what we didn’t do than what they did.”
Bend is now 3-0 in the IMC and has already played the class of the conference, including Crook County and Pendleton. HRV is 2-1, but still must play the Cowboys and Buckaroos — two teams that plan to be a factor in the IMC playoff race.
“Our next game is really important for us,” Lujano said of Friday’s home matchup with Redmond. “We can’t think too far ahead because if we do, we might lose again. But our team is really together this year, and we won’t be down for long.”
Sanders said he liked the effort his team showed against Bend, but he would like to see the execution improve as the season moves along.
“I don’t doubt our effort,” he said, “but I do think we lacked focus. We had a lot of missed blocking assignments and that really surprised me.”
HRV will look to bounce back on Friday at Henderson Stadium, where it has built an 8-0 record since joining the IMC (including a playoff win over Lakeridge).
Sanders expects Redmond to come out with a purpose after losing to Summit last week, but he also believes the home field is a plus for his team.
“It should be a good matchup since neither team is playing that well right now,” he said.