The offensive line blocked, the defensive front caused havoc and the Hood River Valley High School varsity football team re-established its running game.
All those elements combined for a 35-28 victory over the Sandy Pioneers Friday night in Hood River.
Forrest Broddie rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns to lead the HRV offensive attack while the HRV defense sacked Sandy quarterback Justin Adams nine times and stopped the Pioneers from mounting potential game-tying drives twice in the final two minutes of the game.
The Pioneers opened and ended HRV’s season last year with a pair of victories in Sandy, but HRV coach Caleb Sperry said the revenge factor didn’t come into play much in the run-up to the game. Instead, the Eagles just wanted to focus on a larger issue that led to the two losses (and eight others in a 3-7 2011 season): execution.
“It didn’t have much of anything to do with Sandy; it was just us and executing,” Sperry said. “It didn’t matter if it was Sandy or anybody else on our schedule.
The Eagles had a chance to put that execution to the test late in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 28-28. Hood River got possession at the Sandy 12-yard line with 4:30 to play following a bad snap on a punt that sailed over Adams’ head.
The Eagles got to the three-yard line and set up a fourth and inches before calling a time out.
In previous years the fourth and short in the red zone had bedeviled the HRV offense, leading to penalties or botched plays, and they wanted to get it right this time.
“We were just down there firing up the offensive line,” said Broddie.
On the play HRV ran a toss to the right side for Broddie, who got perfect blocking from the line and cut back inside to score the go-ahead touchdown.
“That was just experience from our all-senior line,” said HRV quarterback Luke Kopecky. “And Forrest has just been waiting for an opportunity like that.”
The difference a year makes between two teams was shown on the next Sandy possession, as the Eagle defense put pressure on Adams repeatedly and then got a combined sack from Jesse Lee and Nick Weekly to set up a third and long. The Pioneers appeared to have tied the game on the next play when Adams found Blake Robison for a 77-yard touchdown after he out-jumped HRV cornerback Alex Jimenez for the ball. However the play was called back for offensive pass interference and the Pioneers turned the ball over on downs on the next play with a sack by Lee and Gannon Almsted.
The Eagles missed a chance to seal the game with just over a minute left when a Cesar Romero 22-yard field goal attempt was wide right, but the defense was again up to the challenge and held off a final Hail Mary attempt from Adams to get the win.
The two defensive stands capped a high-scoring affair which saw the two teams repeatedly march up and down the field early. The Eagles got on the board first when Broddie ran 27 yards for a touchdown with 7:13 to play in the first quarter.
Sandy responded with an 80-yard drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Robison.
Broddie set up the Eagles’ next touchdown with a 52-yard scamper to get inside the Sandy 10 late in the second quarter, and Kopecky finished the job by passing to Parker Young for a 3-yard touchdown.
Kopecky would finish the game completing 20 of 32 pass attempts for 257 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Just seconds after scoring the touchdown, Young came up with a big play on defense, intercepting Adams and giving HRV the ball back with 1:32 to play in the half.
The Eagles quickly moved down field and Broddie punched the ball in from three yards out for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 54 seconds to play in the half.
HRV should have gone into the locker room with a two-score lead but a missed coverage assignment on the first play of the ensuing Sandy possession left Robison wide open, and he picked up 50 yards on a pass from Adams to get to the HRV three. Adams found Joshua Visan for a 3-yard touchdown on the next play to cut the gap to 21-14 at the half.
The Eagles started the second half with a big play of their own when Kopecky found an open Kyle Beam across the middle on the third play of the half for a 66-yard touchdown.
While the Eagle defense began to make adjustments to shut down the Sandy offense, the Pioneers were able to use special teams to keep the game close.
Midway through the third they blocked an HRV punt and started at the Eagle 17. Adams quickly cashed in on the good field position when he found Karsten Short from 17 yards out for a touchdown to again cut the margin to one score.
Short set up the next Sandy touchdown when he returned a punt to the HRV 34-yard line in the opening seconds of the third quarter. Sandy tied the game soon after thanks to some heroics from Cody Welty. The 5-foot-11 receiver used all of his available height to pull in a fourth-down pass from Adams and pick up a first down, and then caught a 13-yard pass from Adams on the next play for a game-tying touchdown.
Both sides then traded fumbles and punts before the bad punt snap put the Eagles in position to win the game.
Sperry came away from the game impressed with both his linemen on both sides of the ball. The offensive line consistently gave Kopecky time to throw, allowed just two sacks and paved the way for Broddie’s big night. Defensively the Eagles got sacks, or partial sacks from nine different plays, with Eli Fults leading the way with two.
“What a great first game to have,” Sperry said. “It’s nice to have the win, but it’s also nice to have the lessons from it.”