As of Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Despite traveling on a long, three-hour road trip to face the highly-regarded North Eugene Highlanders on their home field, the HRV football team felt confident that maybe they could snap a two-game losing streak.
In what could very well be considered one of their best overall performances of the season, the No. 26 Eagles (2-3) had a chance to win in the final minute of the contest. In a thrilling, high-scoring shootout, it was the Highlanders (5-0) who came up with clutch plays at the end, though, to secure a 57-49 win Friday at North Eugene High School. It was the highest scoring 5A game of the season.
“It was an exciting back-and-forth game with lots of big scoring plays, but I just wish that we would’ve came out on top,” said HRV coach Caleb Sperry. “It was a crazy game for sure. We had good opportunities to win the game, but we just couldn’t make a big play at the end to pull out a win. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere with Homecoming on Friday, so we have a lot to play for and we have to prove to ourselves that we can play well for the entire game. We have to limit our mistakes, because we just had too many turnovers against North Eugene. It will be a good opportunity for us to regain our momentum prior to our first league game (Oct. 16 versus Pendleton at home).”
In a contest that included an incredible 13 lead changes, the Eagles got on the scoreboard first with a six-play, 73-yard scoring drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Michael Jones (32 carries, 188 yards rushing). HRV led 6-0 with just 70 seconds into the game. The Eagle six-point advantage was the largest lead for either team until the end of the game.
The Highlanders answered with a scoring drive eight minutes later to take an 8-6 lead with two minutes, 13 seconds left in the first quarter. On their ensuing possession, the Eagles responded and went back on top just 30 seconds later. On their very first play of the series, senior quarterback Dallas Buckley (15-for-32 passing, 359 yards, four touchdowns) threw a 57-yard TD pass to senior receiver Kellan Duffy (two catches, 65 yards receiving) to give HRV a 12-8 lead with 1:43 left.
The Highlanders quickly responded with a similar one-play drive on an 80-yard TD to take a 15-12 lead after one quarter. The Eagles then responded in the second quarter with a three-play drive, capped by a 97-yard TD bomb from Buckley to senior receiver Tyrone Stintzi (two catches, 111 yards receiving). The extra point kick by junior placekicker Manny Valdovinos lifted Hood River in front 19-15 with 7:50 remaining in the quarter.
The entire game continued in an exciting seesaw-type of offensive battle with both teams scoring on nearly every alternating possession. Neither team had consecutive scoring plays until the last five minutes of the game, when North Eugene took control with a crucial 14-0 run to secure the win.
North Eugene scored twice to build a 31-26 halftime lead. HRV’s defense was impressive with a strong third quarter, holding the Highlanders scoreless. The Eagles capitalized on their only scoring possession of the quarter to regain the momentum. HRV capped a three-play 54-yard drive with a 23-yard TD pass from Buckley to Jones. The duo connected again for a two-point conversion pass to propel HRV in front 34-31 at the end of the third quarter.
The low-scoring third was followed by a high-scoring fourth in which the two squads combined for a total of 41 points. After the Highlanders went up 37-34, HRV came back with a six-play, 65-yard drive, capped by Buckley’s six-yard TD scramble. Valdovinos booted the PAT to give HRV a 41-37 lead with 8:34 left in the game.
The Highlanders again responded quickly with a TD just 28 seconds later to go up 43-41 with 8:06 on the clock. HRV regained the lead on a seven-play, 59-yard drive, capped by an 11-yard TD run by senior running back Ben Kupchin. A two-point conversion run by Kupchin put HRV on top 49-43 with 5:59 left in the contest.
North Eugene then responded with a scoring drive, but missed the PAT to knot it at 49-49 with 5:32 remaining. On their next possession, the Highlanders proceeded on a seven-play, 50-yard game-winning scoring drive to take a 57-49 lead with 55 seconds left in the game.
HRV outgained the Highlanders in total offense — 683 yards to 541 — and had an advantage in many statistical categories. The Eagles had 324 yards rushing, while the Highlanders had only 116 yards on the ground. That represented a huge improvement defensively for HRV, which allowed its last two opponents (Ridgeview, Redmond) over 400 yards rushing. HRV had 86 offensive plays, compared to 61 plays for the Highlanders. HRV had an edge in time of possession, too, at 29:11 to 18:49 for North Eugene. The Eagles were 6-for-13 in third down conversions while North Eugene was just 1-for-12. HRV also welcomed back to the lineup senior running back Parker Irusta, who played his first game this year since recovering from a leg injury.
Other CRC action:
All four CRC teams lost Friday. The defending 5A champion Hermiston Bulldogs (0-5) lost 42-10 to Coeur d’Alene (Idaho). Surprisingly, winless Hermiston is the highest ranked CRC team at No. 15. The Ridgeview Ravens (3-2) won 41-27 over the No. 25 Pendleton Buckaroos (2-2). The La Grande Tigers (4-1), a 4A squad, won 43-19 over No. 30 The Dalles (1-4). The Eagles will try to bounce back and get a win in their Homecoming game at Henderson Community Stadium Friday at 7 p.m. versus the McKay Royal Scots (1-4) of Salem. The Eagles will be seeking revenge against the 6A Greater Valley Conference team. McKay won 34-21 over Hood River last year in Salem.