Friday, September 9, 2011
Consistency is the word for the Hood River Valley football team this season.
The past several years have been marked by all sorts of changes for HRV: Two years ago it was a new coach. Last year it was a new league.
The Eagles' games themselves were wildly inconsistent last season. They beat Sandy in a 46-40 shootout in week one, but didn't score 20 points again until their fourth game. They shut out Pendleton one week, and they surrendered five touchdowns in a 44-33 win over Hermiston the next week.
This fall the good ship Eagle seems rather steady.
"We're in year three of our scheme," coach Caleb Sperry said. "And we're building on things we've done for the last two years."
Back is starting quarterback Cody Walker as well as numerous starters on offense and defense.
The Eagles are coming off one of their most successful seasons in a decade after going 5-2 in the regular season and losing 28-27 to Parkrose in a state play-in game.
"I expect us to do at least as well as last year," Walker said. "We've got a lot of guys back."
The Eagles have spent their offseason focusing on their defensive scheme and trying to find an answer at running back, a position that managed to swallow up players and was a problem all season long in 2010.
While key players are back on both sides of the ball, there are two big sets of shoes that need filling. The departures of all-league wide receivers/defensive back Dalton Frazier and Ryan Bales mean the Eagles are looking for some new playmakers.
There are quite a few candidates to pick up some of the load. Cole Hunter emerged as a viable receiving threat last year when he filled in for an injured Frazier. Across from him will line up twin brother threats Chase and Parker Young. In the backfield the Eagles will have athletes like Gabi Nunos and Milo Herman taking the ball behind a small but skilled offensive line.
Walker also said he wants to pick up his own running ability this year to provide the Eagles with yet another weapon out of the backfield, especially when they don't stop after every play.
"I think the no-huddle can help our lack of size," said center Luke Ihle. "We just have to be faster. If we can go fast we can wear down the defense."
Herman has no problem with that approach.
"I'm just going to get the ball, run as hard as I can and hit people as hard as I can," he said.
In addition to anchoring the center of the offensive line, Ihle will also play a key part on defense after earning all-league honors as a linebacker last season.
With Nunos and Hunter lining up as corner, they figure to again have some ball hawks in the secondary.
If they can establish some playmakers, the Eagles figure to have a good shot at winning the Columbia River Conference after finishing second last season.
The Dalles-Wahtonka won the league by beating HRV in the regular season finale, but lost significant portions of the roster, as well as coach Andy Codding, after losing in the first round of the state playoffs.
Pendleton lost star running back Jacob Rickman and is going through changes to its offensive scheme.
Hermiston returns the same style of high scoring attacks that saw it push HRV to the finish despite being on their fourth-string quarterback when the two teams met last year, and this year's Hermiston-HRV match-up could decide the league title.
However, much of the work to win that league title will have to be done on the road. Two of HRV's league games and five games overall are on the road. And all of them are against the toughest opponents on the schedule.
However, they can't worry about where they play to win; they know they just have to come away on the right end of the score.
"If you do your job and the person to the right and left of you does your job, it doesn't matter who you are playing or where you are playing," Hunter said.