Don’t count the Eagles out just yet.
The Hood River Valley football team defeated Milwaukie at home last Friday night by a final score of 51-13, securing a home play-in game against Forest Grove on Friday, Oct. 26.
The play-in game is the Eagles’ last chance to secure one of the 16 spots in the 5A Football State Playoffs.
In the final game of the regular season, HRV only led by 10 points at half, but a 28-0 advantage in the third quarter put this game away for good for the Eagles on senior night.
“We did a good job of feeling out our opponent against Milwaukie,” said Hood River Valley head coach Caleb Sperry. “We stayed with our game plan and eventually wore them down.”
HRV grabbed ahold of the lead early on and never looked back.
After a scoreless three-minute drive to open the game for Milwaukie, HRV took over at its own 37-yard line and drove down field in 14 plays for the first score of the game.
A six-minute opening drive of 73 yards for HRV’s offense was capped off by an 11-yard rushing touchdown by starting tailback Brandon Rivera.
The first quarter ended with HRV ahead 7-0.
Halfway into the second quarter, HRV found its way back into the endzone as starting quarterback Ryan Gray rushed for a two-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead.
A two-possession game had seemed to be cut down to one-possession heading into halftime, as Milwaukie completed a five-yard passing touchdown to make it a 14-7 game with only 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
But the 22 seconds left on the clock was just enough time for HRV’s offense to muster something before halftime.
A short kick and an encroachment penalty by Milwaukie moved the ball up into the Mustangs’ half of the field for HRV, giving Gray an opportunity for a shot down field.
With under 10 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Gray connected with wide receiver Brad Long for a 28-yard reception, setting the Eagles up in field goal range.
After what was a rough outing kicking the ball in the previous game against Forest Grove (0-4 field goal attempts), HRV kicker Riggs Bardin knocked in a 38-yard field goal with time-winding down to give HRV a 17-7 lead heading into halftime.
Up in the game by 10 points, HRV would receive the opening kickoff in the third quarter.
HRV wasted no time scoring in the third quarter as the Eagles drove 46 yards down field and finished the opening drive off with Gray finding wide receiver Tanner Fletcher for a four-yard passing touchdown; HRV 24-7.
Four minutes later, Rivera got back into the mix of things as he extended the HRV lead to 31-7 after a three-yard rushing touchdown.
In the final two minutes of the third quarter, HRV’s defense forced a fumble and a three-and-out, which led to touchdowns by Gray through the air and Rivera on the ground.
The 17-7 halftime lead for HRV quickly turned into a 45-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter after scoring 28 unanswered points in the third.
And only 12 seconds into the fourth, HRV went up 51-7 after Rivera tallied in his fourth rushing touchdown of the game on a 43-yard run.
A late score by Milwaukie finalized the score at 51-13 on HRV’s senior night.
“We executed our game plan on both ends of the field,” said Sperry. “Limiting turnovers and making Milwaukie earn everything on the offensive end were key to last week’s victory.”
Defensively, HRV held Milwaukie to only 157 total yards, 4/13 on third down conversions and forced two turnovers.
Beto Rojas, starting middle linebacker for HRV, is the leader for the Eagles on the defensive end of the field as he ended his night against Milwaukie with a tackle and tackle-for-loss.
“When he’s at his best, our defense is at its best,” said Sperry about Rojas’ impact on the defensive end of the field. “His teammates on the defensive end of the field respond to him in the way he plays. He has a good nose for the football and makes smart decisions on the field.”
Miles Wyatt and Juanluis Jimenez each had two tackles and a tack-for-loss for HRV versus the Mustangs.
Offensively, HRV had one of its most balanced games of the season as the air attack racked up 195 passing yards, while the ground game finished with 192 rushing yards.
Gray ended with three total touchdowns, two through the air and one on the ground, and added 195 passing yards on 12-16 attempts. He also had his highest quarterback rating of the season with a rating of 206.13.
“Gray has continued to improve throughout this season and we’re confident in him as a team with him at the helm of this offense,” said Sperry.
The leading receiver for HRV was Christian Zack, who finished with five receptions for 116 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Rivera led the Eagles running game as he racked up 160 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on 21 rushing attempts — a 7.6-yard average per rush attempt.
The Eagles’ 51-13 victory sets up a rematch between HRV and Forest Grove this Friday, Oct. 26 at Henderson Stadium.
HRV and Forest Grove matched up two weeks ago and despite HRV being up 14-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the Vikings scored 22 unanswered points to take the 22-21 road victory, spoiling the Eagles’ homecoming game.
However, the difference between this week’s game and the game two weeks ago is that the team to come up short this Friday won’t have another game to get themselves back into the playoff picture.
The winner of Friday’s game will head to the 16-team field 5A State Football Tournament, which begins on Nov. 2, while the other’s season will come to an end.
“Don’t leave anything out on the field — we left a lot of opportunities on the field and this time we have to finish what we started,” is Sperry’s message to his team heading into Friday night’s play-in matchup with Forest Grove. “We need to understand where we our on the field against their running game, but the biggest things for us heading into this game is execution and finishing the job.”
HRV ended in third place in the Intermountain Conference standings with a 4-2 league record and 5-3 overall record.
The play-in game between HRV and Forest Grove is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff time at Henderson Stadium on Friday, Oct. 26.