The first clues that it was going to be a difficult night for the Hood River Valley Eagles came early in Sandy Friday.
After two Pioneer rushing plays went nowhere to start the game, Sandy quarterback Justin Adams fired a pass to Nick Yungeberg for a 35-yard game. Two plays later Yungeberg made a leaping catch for another 30 yards, and shortly thereafter Sandy was in the end zone on a drive that took up half the first quarter.
The Pioneers controlled the pace of the game throughout and opened the 2011 season with a 38-19 win over the Eagles.
The Pioneers won the time of possession by a margin of nearly 2:1 and took it to the Eagles with a balanced pass and run attack.
"We wanted to establish the run and Hood River knew we wanted to establish the run," Sandy coach Ray Baker said. "They did a great job at first beating us off the line of scrimmage, but Hood River must have had a lot of those kids playing both ways because eventually we wore them down."
While Sandy running backs Dustin Spencer, Michael Daffron, Kyle Bateman and Ging Martin combined to run for 157 yards, HRV's struggles in the running game carried over from last season.
The Eagles ran for -12 yards and abandoned the running game nearly entirely by the second half after falling behind 18-7 moments in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Eagles they could not get much going in the passing game, either.
Eagle receivers dropped numerous throws from quarterback Cody Walker, who was also busy running for his life as the Sandy defense broke through the HRV offensive line time after time.
The Eagles were also penalized 11 times on offense for 150 yards.
"It was a lot of first game mistakes," HRV coach Caleb Sperry said. "I thought we would be a lot further ahead execution wise. It was dissapointing to get all those penalties and a lot of false starts," HRV coach Caleb Sperry said. " But it's all fixable. We can fix dropped passes and mixed blocks."
Walker threw for 206 yards in the game, with Cole Hunter accounting for most of those yards.
The senior wide receiver accounted for three touchdowns and 135 yards. He also picked off Adams twice, including an interception to end a Sandy drive at the halftime horn.
His first touchdown came on a 15-yard grab shortly before the half. When coupled with his interception at the half, he kept HRV down by five points heading into the locker room.
However, momentum shifted decidedly in Sandy's favor to open the second half. An HRV punt fake failed on the Eagles' opening drive, and Sandy responded with a six-play, 60-yard drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown run by Kyle Bateman.
On the first play of the following HRV possession, Blake Robinson stepped in front of a Walker pass and ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown and the Pioneers were in control.
They nearly turned it into a blowout moments later when Joey Damici picked up an apparent fumble by Hunter and ran it back to the HRV 2-yard line. However, the Eagles got to replay the down when the officials could not reach a consensus if Hunter fumbled, was down by contact or the pass was incomplete.
HRV took advantage on the next play when Hunter split the defense and hauled in a 63-yard touchdown catch to again make it a two-score game.
Sandy would score again, though, in the opening moments of the fourth quarter and then consumed a large portion of the clock before the Eagles scored on another Hunter touchdown with 1:52 to play. The scoring drive included a spectacular leaping catch by Hunter to keep the drive alive on fourth down and a successful (if not planned) double pass on a fake punt that blew up in the face of punter Eli Fults as the Sandy defense poured through tht HRV?line.
The Eagles then got a perfectly executed onside kick from kicker Erik Gutierrez to get the ball back, but turned the ball over on downs in four plays.
Sandy then rubbed salt in the wound on a touchdown catch by Bateman as time expired.
Baker, in his fifth year as coach of Sandy, had lost to Hood River Valley in each of the previous four years and was thrilled to beat the Eagles, which include HRV offensive coordinator Bruce Burton, one of Baker's former players.
"They've beat us every year and they've been the better team every year that they did," Baker said. "
Meanwhile, Sperry said the Eagles are going to go back to practice to figure out what went wrong.
"We have to go back and have more intensity in practice and pick up the tempo," he said. "It's not a lack of knowing what to do... it's just live action and playing against an opponent that was more prepared and fired up."
Around the CRC: It was not the greatest of opening weeks for the four teams in the Columbia River Conference. Pendleton was blasted 53-6 by Kennewick and The Dalles-Wahtonka was clobbered by Wilsonville 60-13. Hermiston was the only winner, sneaking by Walla Walla 28-21.
Up next: The Eagles host Cleveland in their home opener at Henderson Stadium Friday. The Eagles beat the Warriors 9-6 in Portland in double overtime last year. Cleveland is coming off a 6-0 loss to Milwaukie in its season opener.
Freshmen fall: The HRV frosh team lost to Sandy 42-14 last week. Cole Osborne scored all the points for HRV, catching a touchdown pass from Ryan Ward and rushing for a fourth quarter touchdown.