Things are looking better for the Hood River Valley Eagles.
Things can't get much worse for The Dalles-Wahtonka Eagle-Indians.
The Eagles handed TDW its second consecutive lopsided defeat with a 56-6 thrashing Friday night in The Dalles.
Nothing much changed in the lower half of the 5A rankings Friday night, meaning both teams should make the play-in round in two weeks. However, one team will be going in with its swagger back, while the other's offense is on life support.
"This was huge," HRV coach Caleb Sperry said. "Especially in a season like this where we have had a lot should-have-beens and could-have-beens."
The Eagles overcame some early struggles and put together the type of complete game their coach had been waiting for.
HRV fumbled the ball away on the goal line on its first possession, but after that nothing TDW tried slowed down the Eagles.
Quarterback Cody Walker had a career day, throwing for 457 yards and five touchdowns before being lifted in the fourth quarter with the game in hand.
He also rushed for 49 yards and got HRV's first touchdown on a QB keeper from the 1-yard line.
"If I can run and pass we are that much better," Walker said.
The Eagles fumbled the ball again on their next possession but the defense held the Eagle-Indians.
When TDW set up to punt, the ball flew over the head of kicker Nolan McCall, who ran to pick up the ball and then ran past three Eagles in the backfield.
In previous weeks with the Eagles' luck, McCall may have just kept running for a first down, but the Eagles caught him after a 2-yard gain and took the ball over on downs.
Walker again quickly went to work connecting with three different receivers on the ensuing drive, and finishing it when Cole Hunter came wide open across the middle for an 18-yard touchdown.
From that point it was all Eagles, all the time.
Gabi Nuno intercepted Chaise Schroll to set up another short field for HRV, and Walker took advantage by swinging a pass to Andrew Thompson in the right flat for an 11-yard score.
The HRV defense picked off Schroll four times in the game, with their only mistake coming early in the second quarter when Austin DeHart was left uncovered down the home sideline for a 60-yard touchdown - the sole score for TDW.
The Eagle-Indians squandered a momentary lull in the Eagle scoring and could not get back in the game with their next three possessions ending in two punts and an interception.
Following the interception, the Eagles needed only two plays to resume their onslaught when Walker found Hunter again for a 44-yard strike where he was again left open behind the defense.
HRV poured it on in the second half.
"My O-line was giving me time to throw and we had a good scheme going in," Walker said. "It felt good and all my guys were running their routes good."
The Eagles quickly marched down the field on their first possession of the half, using a 42-yard screen pass from Walker to Gabi Nuno to set up a 10-yard touchdown catch by Eli Fults.
The remaining scores all came in a flurry in the fourth quarter. Walker found Malcolm McCurdy behind the TDW defense and he sprinted 54 yards for the score with 6:08 to play.
At that point Walker and many of the first-teamers checked out, only to have the backups keep rolling to points. Jeremy Fischer and Wyatt Webber both ran for touchdowns in the closing minutes as HRV handed TDW its second consecutive loss by 49 points or more.
The Eagles needed to win to not only make the playoffs a certainly but also to establish any sort of momentum after several frustrating losses.
"I think we can play a lot better still," Sperry said. "There are still some areas we can improve on but we are getting closer. We can definitely make some noise in the playoffs."
While Sperry may not have been willing to call the HRV win a complete game, it was as close to any as they've played this season. The Eagles led wire to wire, created four turnovers, converted two-thirds of their third downs, rushed for 183 yards at nearly six yards a carry between six ball carriers, passed for 464 yards, outgained TDW in total yards 647 to 292 and, of course, put 55 points on the scoreboard.
The offensive fireworks should be enough to make any play-in round opponent sit up and take notice.
Most importantly the Eagles also snapped a two-game losing skid to The Dalles and returned the Old Wash Bucket, the annual trophy in the rivalry, to Hood River.
"It feels really good to get that trophy back," Sperry said.
Up next: The Eagles host 4A Crook County Friday in their regular season home finale.
The 4A Cowboys have struggled to a 3-5 record and are 0-4 since winning three of their first four games. They lost to Summit 27-6 Friday. In addition to Summit the Cowboys have also played one other common opponent with HRV, falling 49-15 to Pendleton on Sept. 9.
Around the CRC: Pendleton took home the CRC league title Friday by pulling out a 26-12 win over Hermiston. Pendleton scored 13 unanswered points in the second half to put the game away.
Eye on the rankings: Despite beating TDW, HRV failed to pull ahead of them in the rankings. The Eagles are ranked No. 12 in the north region (No. 31 overall at 5A) while TDW is ranked No. 11 (No. 30 overall). However, HRV could pull ahead of TDW in the final rankings with a win over Crook County as TDW currently has no opponent scheduled for Friday.
If the rankings stand, the Eagles would play at the No. 5 north seed (likely St. Helens, Liberty or Sandy) Nov. 4 in the play-in round.