Inspired by Homecoming festivities, fireworks, and a loudly cheering capacity crowd, the Eagles played their best game this year with a dominating performance in a 49-14 win over the McKay Royal Scots Friday night at Hood River’s Henderson Community Stadium.
Senior dual threat quarterback Dallas Buckley scored six touchdowns (15-for-19 passing, 220 yards; nine carries 146 yards rushing) to help lead the Eagles (3-3) in the blowout win to snap a three-game losing streak. HRV jumped in front 28-0 and scored on five of nine first-half offensive possessions to build a big lead in the nonleague matchup. Hood River maintained its offensive rhythm throughout the game to steamroll the 6A Royal Scots (1-5) from Salem.
It was a momentum and confidence building win for sure for coach Caleb Sperry’s No. 25-ranked Eagles, who open Columbia River Conference play in a 7 p.m. home game Friday versus No. 23-ranked Pendleton (2-4).
“We had a great week of preparation; the kids came out of the locker room with lots of momentum and they just did all the right things, so I’m extremely proud of them,” said Sperry. “They were well focused and they played with a high intensity level to make a huge impact for the entire game. There are still some things that we need to work on, such as eliminating penalties, that we need to improve on to become a better team. I’m definitely excited about getting a big win like this heading into next week’s first league game (versus Pendleton).”
The Eagles went up quick on the scoreboard as they took the opening kickoff from the Scots and capped a 12-play, 73-yard drive with a Buckley five-yard TD pass to senior receiver Montana Kurahara (three catches, 46 yards receiving). The point after touchdown by junior placekicker Manny Valdovinos (seven PATs) gave HRV a 7-0 advantage with seven minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
“Our offensive line has stepped up and really performed well the last couple of games,” said Kurahara. “That’s kind of the key to our success, because having good line play helps to elevate our passing game and it helps provide room for our running backs. We have a lot of players at skill positions that helps us create scoring opportunities. We have good depth with strong substitute players that can come in and provide a high level of play so that nobody ever gets too tired. Everything’s going very well for us right now. We’re playing with a high confidence level and it’s great to have lots of momentum at the start of our league play. I think we have the potential to have a lot more success throughout the remainder of the season and hopefully we’ll win the CRC championship.”
The swarming Eagle defense, led by seniors Sam Fults (four tackles), Max Lane (sack) and linebacker Andy Schmidt, throttled the Scots all night, while forcing them to punt often after many of their unproductive offensive possessions. HRV limited McKay to a total of just 232 yards of offense. After getting the kickoff from Valdovinos, McKay struggled on its first series and punted the ball to HRV.
“The Homecoming celebration was certainly lots of fun,” said Fults, who was selected to the Homecoming Court. “We worked hard all week to prepare for the game and our strong effort payed off with a win. We’ve had some close games all year, but we all played with a high energy level and everything came together for us tonight in a really fun game. It was by far the best game we’ve played this year. We’re hoping our momentum will continue in our next game against Pendleton, which will be a real physical and tough opponent. Things are going well for us now though and we really want to win the conference championship this year.”
Just like their first possession, the Eagle offense (563 total yards) proved to be unstoppable for the Scots. HRV march downfield on its second series and capped a seven-play, 46-yard drive with a four-yard TD run by sophomore running back Michael Jones (12 carries, 112 yards rushing). A Valdovinos PAT gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 4:23 on the clock. HRV remained in front 14-0 after the first quarter.
“I’m definitely excited about getting a big win like this to help give us momentum heading into our first league game (versus Pendleton),” said Sperry, whose squad has totaled 98 points in the last two games. “We’ve had all these nonleague games to help us get better and now it’s like the start of a new season. We’ll have to show up and play our best in order to accomplish our goal of winning the CRC championship. We have an explosive offense, so we’re capable of scoring lots of points. We have to focus on protecting the ball better by eliminating costly turnovers and I expect that we’ll continue to do that.”
After an exchange of possessions, the Scots fumbled on a punt return and HRV senior Kiel Sorenson recovered the ball, giving the Eagles possession at McKay’s 37-yard line. A three-play drive concluded with a 23-yard TD pass from Buckley to senior receiver Tyrone Stintzi. The Valdovinos kick put HRV up 21-0 with 10:30 left in the second quarter.
“We just need to have another good week of practice and get ready to come back and play our hearts out against Pendleton,” said Stintzi, HRV’s leading receiver with a total of 18 catches for 296 yards. “We all played our best, everyone did a good job blocking on the offensive line and our defense shut down McKay. We have lots of momentum now, so we feel pretty good about our chance to come back and get another on Friday against Pendleton. If we continue to play like we did tonight, then I think we’ll have a good chance to win the league championship.”
The struggling Scots, who beat HRV 34-21 last year in Salem, were simply out of synch throughout the game and they had a turnover again on their ensuing series following the Eagle kickoff. Kurahara recovered a Scots fumble at the Eagle 16-yard line. The high-powered, potent Eagle offense (38 points per game average) continued to shine as HRV quickly scored again. The fleet-footed Buckley scrambled through the Scots defense on a 79-yard TD run and the PAT by Valdovinos made it 28-0 with 6:40 left until halftime.
McKay responded and scored on its ensuing possession to make it 28-7 with 4:51 on the clock. Following an exchange of possessions, HRV took control after thwarting a Scots fourth down conversion attempt. The Eagles took over at their own 36-yard line with just 37 seconds left. Utilizing their timeouts, the Eagles then proceeded on a quick, five-play drive, highlighted by a 39-yard pass from Buckley to Kurahara to McKay’s 20. Two plays later, Buckley connected with Kurahara for a two-yard TD and the PAT by Valdovinos lifted HRV in front 35-7 at halftime.
McKay received the second half kickoff from HRV and was unable to move the ball against the Eagle’s rock-solid defense. The Scots punted and HRV took control at its own 22. The Eagles then proceeded on a 78-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a 21-yard Jones run to McKay’s 27. The drive was capped by an 11-yard Buckley TD pass to sophomore receiver Connor Coerper and the PAT by Valdovinos made it 42-7 with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
McKay responded with a scoring drive on its ensuing possession, trimming the margin to 42-14 with 2:02 left in the third. HRV quickly answered with a four-play, 80-yard scoring drive, capped by Buckley’s one-yard TD scramble and the Valdovinos PAT propelled HRV in front 49-14 with 1:01 left in the third. Reserves played a majority of a scoreless fourth quarter for both squads.
The Eagles will be hoping to reverse the outcome of a matchup last year versus the Buckaroos, who won 55-27 in Pendleton. The Buckaroos have lost three straight, including a 26-19 loss Friday to A.C. Davis of Washington. HRV and Pendleton have a common opponent as both lost home games by 14 points to the Ridgeview Ravens. The Eagles and Bucks have defensive similarities: Pendleton is allowing an average of 32 points per game. The Eagles allow an average of 31.66 points per game.
In other CRC games Friday, No. 19 Hermiston (1-5) won 13-7 over Sandy. The Dalles (No. 29) forfeited a game to Nyssa after an injury depleted roster left the Riverhawks with a total of just 14 players available. The Dalles (1-5) will evaluate their injury reports on a week-to-week basis to determine if they have enough players available to return to action.