The Hood River Valley defense combined with monsoon-like conditions to keep the vaunted Hermiston Bulldog offense grounded Friday night.
The Eagles (6-2, 2-0 CRC, OSAA No. 14) got a burst of scoring in the first half, and that proved to be more than enough to sink the Bulldogs (4-3, 1-1, OSAA No. 8) and hop into the driver’s seat for a Columbia River Conference title with a 28-14 win in Hood River.
Forrest Broddie had touchdown runs of 72, 1 and 58 yards to power the Eagle offense in the first half, and a 20-yard touchdown pass from Luke Kopecky to Kyle Beam early in the third quarter gave the Eagles what turned out to be a decisive two-touchdown margin.
HRV football upsets Hermiston
HRV football beats Hermiston 28-14, Oct. 19, 2012
After marching straight down the field and scoring on the first possession of the game, the Bulldogs had trouble moving the football for the rest of the night.
“It’s a huge statement,” said HRV coach Caleb Sperry of the win. “Our focus this week was to play four quarters. Our mantra was fearless play. Our seniors picked that, we tried really hard to focus on that and every day in practice we said it was the first quarter of a game. We wanted to make sure we started and finished the game strong and I think we did that tonight.”
Their only other touchdown, which cut HRV’s lead to 21-14, came on a 10-yard touchdown run by Trenten Anteau, started from the HRV 24 after a long punt return.
But the Eagles were able to answer early in the third quarter when they recovered a Hermiston fumble at the Bulldog 20-yard line and scored one play later on Kopecky’s pass to Beam.
The Eagles made quick strikes on offense, their staple, to get their 28 points.
HRV’s first touchdown came on a 72-yard touchdown by Broddie on the first play of a possession with 4:53 to play in the first quarter.
The Eagle defense helped pave the way for the second touchdown when they forced Hermiston to turn the ball over on downs on the HRV nine-yard line with two minutes left in the opening quarter,
“We just needed that one really good play to get us pumped up,” said defensive lineman Brandon Dominguez.
The Eagle offense needed just three minutes to go 91 yards for a second touchdown.
The drive was sparked by a 41-yard pass from Kopecky to Beam to get the ball to the Hermiston 36. Broddie took over from there and eventually danced into the endzone from a yard out to give the Eagles their first lead.
The Eagles needed only seconds on their next possession to score their third touchdown.
They started on their own 42 following a Hermiston punt and on the first play Broddie broke past the defense for a 58-yard score.
The HRV running back finished with 229 yards on 32 carries. Most of those yards came in the first half as he had to fight through a shoulder injury in the second half. However, the Eagles did not need much from their offense in the second half as their defense stepped up to keep the Bulldogs from gaining any traction.
As the Eagles extended their lead to three touchdowns early in the second half, Hermiston was forced to play catch-up, and the effort did not go well.
Hermiston had focused on attempting to establish its running game, but after the the Bulldogs’ first drive, the Eagle defense made it difficult to do so.
The Bulldogs’ final possession of the third quarter ended in comical fashion as the rain intensified.
Following an 18-yard run by Alejandro Ortiz to the HRV 33, the Bulldogs attempted to a run a direct snap play for Ortiz. The first try wound up with a five-yard illegal procedure penalty. On the next snap Ortiz fumbled and was sacked for a 10-yard loss. The next two snaps were negated by two more false start penalties, before Ortiz fumbled again and lost five more yards leading to an eventual punt with the Bulldogs facing fourth and 40 on their own 27-yard line.
“They false-started a bunch and we had to stay disciplined that whole time; I was really proud of us,” said defensive lineman Nick Morgan.
Things didn’t get any better for the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter. They turned the ball over on downs when they could not convert on a fourth and inches with 4:11 to play and then Connor Normand slammed the door on any comeback with a fourth-down sack of Hermiston quarterback Chase Knutz with 1:47 to go.
The Eagles now face rival The Dalles-Wahtonka for the chance to wrap up sole possession of the league championship and an undefeated league season.
The Dalles is winless on the year and is coming off a 63-21 loss to Pendleton.
Sperry said that the Eagles can’t afford to take TDW lightly if they want to finish off their goal of taking the league title.
“Their goal is to be league champs and we are a step closer to being league champs, but we have to finish the job next week,” Sperry said of his team’s goal. “The Dalles is still a 5A football team and a rival. We have to make sure we don’t come down from an emotiaonal high and not think that we can just show up and be that good.”