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HRV football full steam ahead in ‘03

Sports commentary

It’s not the most dazzling brand of offense, but Hood River Valley’s methodical, down-your-throat running game seems to be getting the job done once again.

The double-wing, double-tight offense hasn’t produced the same point totals as last year (32 points in the first two games), nor has it allowed the Eagles to relax on defense.

But what it has done is allow HRV to control the clock as well as the other team’s field position. That helps keep the defense fresh, which means fewer chances for the opposing offense.

And we’ve all seen what HRV’s opponents have been able to do against their defense so far: Squat.

A combined 267 yards, 14 points and six turnovers are all The Dalles and Benson have been able to muster. But the most critical stat is that the Indians and Techmen combined for 67 plays, while HRV called 58 and 63 plays, respectively, in the the two games.

You control the clock and the line of scrimmage, you win. At least that’s how coach Mitch Sanders and his staff see things. Two games, two wins. Who can argue with that?

Certainly not Sanders. While he admits his team has a few areas to improve upon, he is confident in his game plan. As long as the Eagles stick to it and learn from their mistakes, Sanders believes his team will contend for the Intermountain Conference title.

However, the bruising, smash-mouth offense is only part of Sanders’ scheme. The revitalized defense is what he — and the pollsters around the state — are talking about.

HRV was recently named the preseason favorite by OregonLive.com based on their size and experience up front (Jorge Lujano, Zach Royall, Jason DeHart, Luke McCarthy), as well as power backs, Nigel Bond and Rocky Level.

Now, just this week, the Eagles have been tabbed as the favorite in the Bend Bulletin’s annual preseason media poll, earning 101 points and four first-place votes from a panel of 15 media members (myself and KIHR radio announcer Mark Bailey included).

Yet, despite some statewide attention, Sanders and his team have no reason to be overconfident. While 2-0 is a nice way to start, their wins did come against a 3A school and a P.I.L. school.

The margins of victory weren’t exactly resounding either.

But in the world of high school football, it doesn’t matter how you get a W, as long as you find a way to get a W.

Sanders will take it, and so will the players. The Eagles know they are a good football team, and they want to one-up last year’s playoff run by winning a league championship this year.

Just like the 2002 team, these Eagles hope to carve their own place in history. They have the brains and the brawn to just that. And now, they have the respect of the voters.

But they will have to prove it in a rugged, tightly bunched conference, which got a lot tougher when the teams learned that only three, not four, playoff slots are up for grabs this year.

There are no consolation prizes in a nine-game schedule, especially when only seven of the games count. If the Eagles want to be included in the postseason party and contend for an IMC title, they need to keep doing it with defense.

And with a little art they seem to have perfected called, “clock management.”

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