The rain stayed away just long enough for the Hood River Valley Eagles to celebrate their first conference championship without getting soaked — most of them, anyway.
HRV coach Caleb Sperry was hunted down and drenched with buckets of ice water at least twice in the post-game euphoria, but he didn’t mind. He was too happy to notice the chill.
“I’m super-proud of these guys,” he said. “When I got the job I went down to the middle schools and talked to these guys when they were in eighth grade. To see them go the first class through the program and establish some of things we are trying to get done and be committed and hard-working and achieve something like that is pretty special.”
His team thoroughly dominated rival The Dalles-Wahtonka Friday night, 43-0, to clinch the Columbia River Conference title and a home game in the state play-in round, and retained possession of the Old Water Bucket trophy.
About the only consolation for The Dalles-Wahtonka (1-7, 0-3 CRC, OSAA No. 37) was that it could have been worse. The Eagles (7-2, 3-0 CRC, OSAA No. 15) went to their bench for most of the fourth quarter, turned the ball over on downs four times deep in TDW territory and also had two other possessions end in turnovers.
But for every step forward TDW took on defense, it took two back on offense.
Their only real scoring chance came on a field goal attempt which was blocked; they surrendered a safety on a snap over the head of the quarterback, and then later gave the Eagles the ball in the red zone on a similar miscue.
The Eagles also played most of the game without star running back Forrest Broddie, who left with an injured ankle after catching a pass midway through the first quarter.
With Broddie out the Eagles turned to their other weapons on offense, and that was more than enough to get the job done.
“Forrest is a huge part of our team; that was a big loss with him going down but we’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays,” said fullback Eli Fults. “We’re a pretty well-rounded team.”
Fults caught three short touchdown passes from quarterback Luke Kopecky, while twins Chase and Parker Young started and ended the scoring with one touchdown catch each.
Kopecky finished the game completing 19 of 30 passes for 246 yards and five touchdowns.
Jeremy Fischer, who filled in for Broddie with the bulk of the carries at running back, ran for 88 yards and a score.
Fischer is usually the change-of-pace back for the Eagles, and had been focusing more on defense and playing inside linebacker after David Brunk got hurt earlier in the season.
However, against The Dalles he was pushed into full-time duty on both sides of the ball.
“Yes I am (tired),” Fischer said after the game. “I haven’t gone both ways since the first half of JV, and that was quite a while ago. I’d never played inside linebacker but I started when (David) Brunk got hurt; it was a big change for me but he helped me get through it ... I was really tired but we all came together.”
The Dalles-Wahtonka came into the game ranked near the bottom of 39 5A teams, and while their defense came up with a few big stops, the TDW offense was completely over-matched by everything the Eagles threw at them.
The Eagles forced two turnovers and prevented TDW from converting a single third down in the game.
The Eagles opened their assault three minutes into the game when Kopecky found Chase Young from 37 yards out.
On the ensuing TDW possession the Eagle-Indians squandered their best scoring chance of the game when a 27-yard field goal try by Chaise Schroll was blocked by Wyatt Webber.
After the two teams traded turnovers the Eagles moved into scoring position again after a 53-yard run by Broddie. However, the Eagle running back left the game on the next play and did not return. His absence did not faze the HRV offensive attack.
After Fischer converted on a fourth and one with a 5-yard run, Kopecky hit Fults from 5 yards out and the Eagles never looked back.
“I usually need that one first play and then everybody is excited and just keeps building and going,” Fischer said.
They added a safety on the next TDW possession and then Kopecky found Fults again early in the second quarter when he rolled right to avoid the TDW rush and played a simple game of throw and catch with his fullback to extend the Eagles’ lead to 22-0 at the half.
The Eagle-Indians completely crumbled after halftime, allowing three more HRV touchdowns as the Eagles rolled.
Fischer got into the end zone from 6 yards out to open the second-half scoring. Later in the third quarter, Fults got his third touchdown of the night when he caught a short pass from Kopecky and rumbled 18 yards into the end zone.
The Eagles capped the scoring early in the fourth when Kopecky hit Parker Young for his fifth touchdown pass of the game.
The HRV win sets up a play-in game with Rex Putnam Friday at Henderson Stadium.
The Kingsmen, out of the Northwest Oregon Conference, finished the season ranked No. 18 with a 4-5 record. They concluded their season with a 63-14 loss to No. 1-ranked Sherwood Friday night.
In each of the past two seasons the Eagles have fallen short in the play-in round, losing at home to Parkrose in 2010 and then at Sandy last year.
Sperry is confident this time will be different.
“We have a great senior class that is very motivated and committed and excited to be where we’re at,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to play for and they have goals of playing into the playoffs. It’s just a different feel and hopefully our health is decent and we’ll be physically ready to play. They’ll be ready to go next week.”