The Hood River Valley High Eagles’ varsity football team is beginning the season with an upbeat attitude and high hopes for success on the field, and with a good number of experienced players returning, those high expectations have a good chance at coming to fruition.
The team, guided by sixth-year head coach Caleb Sperry, will begin its nine-game Class 5A schedule Friday night, with a non-league road game against the Woodburn Bulldogs. The Eagles will then follow by hosting the Madison Senators in their home opener Sept. 12 at 7 p.m., which is the first of five games this year at Henderson Community Stadium. All games will be broadcast by Mark Bailey on KIHR beginning with a 6:30 p.m. pregame show.
“My expectations are to see the team go out onto the field and put out a great effort in every game,” said Sperry. “Everyone has a great attitude and they’ve all been working hard to try and help our team improve every day, which is what I expect of them. In comparing this team to a year ago, we do have a little more experience coming back for us with a lot of guys that had lots of playing time last year. I actually feel like we’ll have a team with more experienced varsity players than we had last year, so we should be a much more competitive team.”
The Eagles have held off-season practice’s since June to prepare for the season. Those workouts have included weightlifting, along with passing and catching drills to help players get into shape.
HRV will rely on senior quarterback Riley Van Hoose to control the team’s multiple set offense. The team will utilize several different offensive schemes, such as spread options and duo running back formations to maneuver the ball downfield against opposing defensive units. Sperry has used this same formula the last five years to try and maintain a balanced offensive attack of passing and running.
“We’ll try to be as balanced as possible on offense, which is what I would like to have,” said Sperry. “That could change, though, when we see how everything works out after the first couple of games. We’ll try to lean on our strength’s as much as possible, but we’re not really sure at this point what that will consist of, so we’ll have to wait and see. We could have a strong passing team or it could be a strong running team; we just have to see what the personality of our team is going to be after playing a game or two and see how things fall into place.”
The Eagles competed in a jamboree last Friday at Summit High School in Bend, where they played three different teams for approximately one quarter of action that included 24 plays. The Eagles had a total of 72 plays against the three opponents (Summit, Reynolds, and Centennial).
“Things went well at the jamboree; we played pretty good and it gave us a chance to try and eliminate some of those early season mistakes that are so common at the beginning of the year,” said Sperry. “We really have a better idea now on what we need to focus on improving. It was nice to have a game type of setting to kind of provide the kids with a test to see where they’re at and everything went pretty good.”
The Eagles have a trio of returning CRC First Team All-League players they’ll rely on to help lead the team, including Samuel Fults, Steven Swafford (running back/linebacker) and senior Patrick Crompton (running back/linebacker). The three, along with Van Hoose, are the Eagle team captains.
“I try to measure our success on putting out a great effort, and I’m pretty satisfied with the work ethic the guys have shown me so far,” said Sperry. “Everyone has been working hard and they’re all buying in to what we’re trying to do … We’re ready to go out there and play. We have our game plan ready and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Last season the Eagles recorded an 0-3 Columbia River Conference record against rivals Hermiston, Pendleton and The Dalles Wahtonka. They’ll face the three conference foes near the end of the season after concluding a six-game non-league schedule. The regular season ends with a home matchup versus TDW on Oct. 31.