After a 2-0 start by the HRV football team, they now find themselves at .500 after dropping their last two games, including a recent road loss to the Hermiston Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs beat the Eagles 40-14 in last Friday’s matchup in Hermiston.
The Eagles (2-2 overall, 1-2 league) are 22nd in the 5A OSAA state ranking as they open the second half of their schedule.
The Eagles next game will be on the road against Redmond on Oct. 6 — a good chance for HRV to get back on track as Redmond has yet to win a game this season (0-5).
Last Friday, the Eagles were unable to obtain any momentum in a tough environment.
Through the first quarter, the game was all tied up at 0, but a strong showing in the second quarter by the Bulldogs would put this game away early.
Hermiston scored early in the second and the ensuing kickoff would be the beginning of a long second quarter for the Eagles.
“The ball went up on the kickoff, got caught in the wind and dropped, bounced and blew back to their kicking team. They recovered and scored quickly,” said Head Coach Caleb Sperry. “The momentum of the game swung quickly, and had a huge emotional impact on the quarter.”
The Bulldogs went onto score 34 unanswered points and led 34-0 at halftime.
A very balanced offensive attack by the Bulldogs, who scored three rushing and two passing touchdowns in the second quarter, kept the Eagles defense guessing.
Not an idea of what was coming next from the Hermiston offense, this Eagles defense was hit with big play after big play.
Hermiston had three drives in the second quarter that happened in three plays or less, including a one-play 66-yard touchdown pass and a 42-yard passing touchdown in three-plays.
A 34-point outburst in the second quarter by Hermiston finished off any hope that the Eagles might have had to mount a comeback in the second half.
However, the Eagles did end this game on a positive note, winning the second half 14-6; which was a “positive” from this game as this team moves forward, Sperry explained.
A five-yard rushing touchdown by running back Michael Jones with nine seconds left in the third quarter capped off a seven-minute drive by the Eagles.
After Hermiston quickly responded with a one-minute drive that ended in a one-yard rushing touchdown, the Eagles’ finished the night with a three-minute scoring drive.
A 36-yard pass by quarterback Caden Leiblein was completed to Jones, who made his way into the end zone for the touchdown, finishing off a nine-play drive of 76-yards.
With seven minutes remaining on the game clock, this would be the final score of the game. The 40-14 defeat moves the Eagles to fifth place in the conference.
Against the Bulldogs, it was Jones who led the Eagles’ rushing attack, ending with 94 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
Bailey Holste helped Jones carry the running load as he contributed 48 yards on seven attempts.
Leiblein also contributed to the running game with 10 total rushes on the night for 52 yards.
However, for Leiblein, running the ball was the only thing going for him and this offense.
On 19 passing attempts, Leiblein was only able to connect with his receivers on three balls.
He finished the night with 46 yards and one touchdown.
Leiblein’s struggles in this game could be blamed on the situation that this offense was forced into.
After burying themselves early, Leiblein and this offense were forced into passing situations, allowing Hermiston’s defense to safely play the pass.
Another factor that contributed to the poor passing game Friday night was the wind, blowing upwards of 15 miles per hour for much of the game.
Besides the one 36-yard touchdown catch by Jones in the fourth-quarter, this Eagles receiving core was virtually non-existent.
In total, the Eagles offense tallied in 258 yards on 65 plays. This is an average of four yards per play, which is good usually, but when the opposing team is averaging eight yards a down, it’s not enough to keep up.
The Eagles on defense allowed their first 400-yard game of the season as Hermiston ended with 213 rushing and 195 passing yards.
The defense did force and recover one fumble against the Bulldogs, but other than that it was a rough showing.
Although the Eagles have dropped their last two games, “we still have a lot to play for,” said Sperry. “We have four games left to make a push for a playoff spot and I think we can do it.”
And to get there Sperry explained that his team needs to continue to work on maintaining blocks, pad level and first contact tackling, creating separation in the passing game and eliminating big plays.
“The sky’s not falling, we just have to keep getting better,” said Sperry. “Especially in these aspects of the game.”
Once again, the Eagles are on the road this week as they travel to Redmond (0-5).
However, after this week’s game, the Eagles will finally be at home for the first time this season on Friday, Oct. 13 against Pendleton. This is also the homecoming game.