To have a shot at beating Hermiston Friday night, the Hood River Valley football team needed to contain Bobby Adams.
The Hermiston workhorse refused to be reined in, though, as he ran all over the Eagles to the tune of 307 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-14 Hermiston rout over reeling HRV.
The loss sets up what could be a do-or-die game between Hood River Valley and The Dalles-Wahtonka in The Dalles Friday.
The Eagles actually led against Hermiston after one quarter, but the Bulldogs scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter to seize control of the game and never gave HRV a chance to get back in it.
Adams scored the first of his touchdowns in the opening seconds of the second quarter with a 25-yard run, then scored on a one-yard plunge barely a minute later. Midway through the quarter he broke loose for a 66-yard score before Jerod Munsterman capped the Bulldogs' second-quarter explosion by hauling in a 37-yard touchdown from Alex Campbell.
Rique Cardenas got Hermiston on the board first with an 11-yard rushing touchdown two minutes into the game. The Eagles quickly answered with a score of their own, when Cody Walker capped a five-minute drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Cole Hunter and a 7-6 lead.
On Hermiston's next possession, the Bulldogs' standout running back got going and the Eagles were quickly left in the dust.
The loss drops the Eagles to 1-6 on the season and into a tie with The Dalles-Wahtonka in last place in the league standings heading into Friday's game.
HRV coach Caleb Sperry said that the Eagles can't think about the rivalry with The Dalles this year; they have to focus on not beating themselves.
"I keep hoping for us to put together a complete game, and we haven't yet," Sperry said. "We can't focus on The Dalles because we are our own worst enemy right now."
When the two teams met last year, it was to decide which would be the Columbia River Conference champion. This year, the loser of Friday's game in The Dalles may not even make the playoffs.
Under the 5A playoff system this year, the bottom two ranked teams from the Northern Leagues and the bottom three ranked teams from the Southern Leagues are dropped from the play-offs, setting up a 16-team state play-in bracket in both regions.
HRV is currently ranked 33rd of the state's 5A teams and is ahead of four northern teams, while TDW is ranked 31st and is ahead of six northern teams.
The two CRC teams are buoyed by five PIL teams ranked lower, but the PIL teams are also playing one another in the final weeks of league play, leaving open the window that several could rise above the loser of the TDW-HRV game.
There could also be a lot on the line for the winner, with the chance to rise above a few teams in the rankings and grab a better match-up in the play-in round.
"We have a lot of potential and the chance to play another day," Sperry said. "There is still football to be played."
As dispiriting as the loss to Hermiston was for HRV, things could have been worse. The Dalles-Wahtonka was thrashed 51-3 by Pendleton Thursday night.
Pendleton's win over The Dalles means that just like last year there will be a rivalry clash to decide the CRC championship.
Unfortunately for TDW and HRV, that clash will be happening between two rivals some 150 miles to the east.