For the first half of Friday’s game between Hood River Valley and Redmond both offenses looked like old steam trains attempting to get up a steep mountain.
Coming out of halftime, Redmond’s looked like a fully loaded freight train rolling downhill at top speed.
The Panthers exploded for 33 second-half points to beat the Eagles 40-28 in Hood River and move to 3-0 on the season.
“We made some formational adjustments that we didn’t show in the first half ... I think conditioning became a bit of a factor we went no-huddle pretty much until the fourth quarter when we were trying to slow the game down,” said Redmond coach Nathan Stanley.
The Panthers exerted their will on the Eagles in the second half, using the running game to move up and down the field before taking advantage of the height and physicality of receiver Matt Dahlen. He accounted for their first two touchdowns of the second half.
On the second touchdown, Dahlen planted himself at the goal line and then outreached one defender in front of, and another behind him, to haul in the pass.
Staring at a two touchdown deficit to an opponent who was rapidly gaining momentum, the Eagles managed to strike back, with Luke Kopecky htting Wyatt Webber for a 55-yard gain to the Redmond four-yard line.
Webber caught the only first half HRV touchdown and finished as the team’s leading receiver with two catches for 90 yards. A few plays later Jeremy Fischer hauled in a short Kopecky pass to pull within a touchdown.
That would be as close as the Eagles would get though.
“We knew they were going to run a lot and towards the end of the game we were not shutting it down like we needed to,” Webber said. “Next week against North Salem, we want revenge because they beat us by a touchdown; we’ve got to be able to stop that and I think we’ll be good.”
The Panthers continued grinding the ball on the ground and chewing up the clock the rest of the night.
In the second half Redmond used running plays 23 times and held the ball for 16 of 24 minutes in the half. Trevor Hindman carried the bulk of that load for the Panthers, finishing with 113 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns.
The two scores came within minutes of each other midway through the fourth quarter.
His first score came on a 16 yard dash on third and thirteen which saw the right side of the Redmond offensive line mow down the HRV defense to clear a path for the running back and put Redmond back up by two touchdowns following Fischer’s score.
“They did a good job of hanging on to the ball and keeping us off the field,” said HRV coach Caleb Sperry. “Credit to them, they did a good job of being consistent and sticking with what we did. They were the better team.”
The Eagles were forced to go to the air on their next possession knowing they may not have many possession left, turned the ball over on downs after three incomplete passes.
That gave the Panthers excellent field position and they needed only two plays to pick up 37 yards to get to the end zone, with Hindman collecting all of it.
In addition to his rushing, Hindman also caught three passes for 94 yards.
The three touchdown lead should have secured the victory, but the Eagles made the Panthers sweat by going to their own ground game.
Fischer reeled off a 16 yard gain on the first play of the subsequent HRV drive, and Forrest Broddie followed with a 24 yard dash.
Three plays later Broddie went into beast mode when he took a handoff on a draw, broke a tackle, stiff armed two defenders and then broke another tackle on his way to the end zone from 34 yards out.
The Eagles burned all three of their timeouts on the subsequent Redmond possession to attempt to get the ball back, and managed to force the Panthers into punting, only to see the ball downed at the HRV five yard line.
Still the Eagles were alive.
Hope lasted three plays before the Redmond defense stripped the ball from Kopecky on a sack and Jacob Breitling recovered the ball and rumbled into the end zone for the victory sealing touchdown.
The Eagles would add another Broddie touchdown in the final minute but the Panthers recovered an onside kick to run out the clock.
After beating up on a pair of 4A schools to start the season, Stanley was glad to see his team exert its will on a much more challanging opponent.
“We knew it was going to be a test,” he said. You want there to be a challenge made and to be able to answer the call.”
The Eagles play at North Salem Friday.