Of all the things that might be scary on Halloween night, nothing would be worse for coach Caleb Sperry and his Hood River Valley High Eagles football team than a loss to the winless Riverhawks from The Dalles. The Eagles (3-6) clearly had no intentions of letting that happen, however, as they concluded their season on a positive note with a 34-6 win over TDW (0-9) on Senior Night Friday at Henderson Community Stadium.
“It’s nice to end the season with a win and have a positive outlook, which is a good situation for the kids,” said Sperry. “The seniors are all great kids, they’re good students and also nice people too. It’s always sad to see guys like Patrick Crompton and Riley Van Hoose leave, as well as all the other seniors.”
The Eagles came out looking focused on offense and defense in the Columbia River Conference matchup. After HRV junior kicker Sebastian Barajas booted the game-opening kickoff, the Eagles defense forced the Riverhawks to go three downs and punt on their first possession.
The Eagles then executed their hurry-up, no-huddle offense to perfection on their opening possession. Led by senior quarterback Riley Van Hoose (11-for-23 passing, 129 yards), HRV proceeded on a five-play, 35-yard series, highlighted by a 24-yard scramble by junior running back Parker Irusta. Van Hoose capped the series with a six-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Kam Walker (three catches, 31-yards). The extra point by Barajas made it 7-0 with eight minutes, 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
“It felt really good to be out here with my friends and what a good way to end the season by beating The Dalles on our home field,” said Walker. “It was a really sweet feeling to get my first touchdown ever too. It was kind of a sad and emotional day for our seniors, who were playing their final game. I’ve made lots of friends and we’ve had some bonding too, so it will be kind of sad when we are not coming back out here again for practice. We’ve had ups and downs this year, but this was a game we really wanted to win the most and we came out and did that.”
HRV’s defense, led by seniors Garrett Kelly, Enrique Perez, Michael Lane, Willie Ishizaka and juniors Max Lane and Sam Fults, again forced a TDW three downs and out possession and a punt. The Eagles took control with excellent field position at TDW’s 34 yard line. A three-play series that took just 60 seconds was capped by a 13-yard scoring strike from Van Hoose to senior Patrick Crompton. The PAT by sophomore Manny Valdovinos made it 14-0 with 5:27 left in the quarter.
“It’s awesome to go out with a win in my final game,” said Van Hoose, who had a season total 1,822 yards passing and 15 TDs. “It was a rough season, but we won our last game, which is all that really matters right now. We could’ve beat some other teams, but we just made some costly mistakes that prevented us from winning. Hopefully, next year the younger guys will do a little better and have a good season.”
Up 14-0 after one quarter, HRV extended the lead in the second when Irusta scooped up a ball after a TDW fumble and sprinted 45 yards to the end zone for a TD, making it 20-0 with 3:45 left until halftime.
The Eagles gained possession to start the second half, but they couldn’t move the ball. A fourth down conversion play with a fake punt failed, leaving HRV one yard short of a first down. TDW gained possession in good field position at the Eagle 35 and scored three plays later, making it 20-6 with 8:20 left in the third.
After an exchange of possessions, HRV was forced into a punting situation and junior Dallas Buckley kicked the ball to the Riverhawks. On TDW’s very first play, HRV defensive back Andy Schmidt intercepted a pass thrown by TDW quarterback Payton Eaton and returned it 14 yards to TDW’s 30. HRV then proceeded on a four-play scoring drive, culminated by Crompton’s (13 carries, 29 yds. rushing) four-yard TD run up the middle. The PAT by Valdovinos made it 27-6 with 10:25 left in the third.
“This feels good and it’s always a nice to end the season with a win,” said Crompton, who led HRV’s ground game this year with a total of 12 TD’s and 444 yards rushing. “I was injured (sprained left ankle) and I couldn’t even play versus Pendleton and Hermiston, which were the two games I really wanted to play in. We could’ve had a little better season, but I can’t complain, because it was pretty good.”
Following an exchange of possessions, TDW punted to HRV and Irusta returned the ball to TDW’s 21, putting the Eagles in excellent scoring position. However, TDW then intercepted a Van Hoose pass on a first down play, giving the Riverhawks possession. It didn’t take long for HRV to regain the ball, however, as junior Zak Ellsworth intercepted an Eaton pass and returned it to midfield at the Eagle 49.
The Eagles were unable to move the ball though and after a fourth down and four play came up short, TDW took over on downs at its own 25. On the next play, Irusta intercepted an Eaton pass and he returned it 32-yards for a TD. Senior Konstantin Vogel booted the PAT, giving HRV a 34-6 lead with 3:05 remaining in the third. It remained that same score at the end of the quarter and at the conclusion of the game as well, following a scoreless fourth.
HRV earned ownership of the Water Bucket Trophy to keep possession of for at least one year. The trophy is awarded each year to the team that wins the rivalry contest. A plaque is attached with the score of each game from year-to-year.
The Eagles showed a big improvement this season after winning just one game in 2013. The team was on the verge of winning several close games this season as well; they lost three games by 14 points or less and had a chance to win all three contests, which would’ve given HRV possibly five or six wins.
“Looking back on the season, there’s a lot of things that we maybe could’ve done different to come up with some wins,” said Sperry. “We’re responsible for the results we got, but we could’ve done better. I’m disappointed the season is over. I’m proud of all these kids (45 total) and the commitment they made to the program. I don’t think kids get enough credit for how hard the game is. They start the year playing in hot weather and end it in cold weather. It’s hard wearing all the gear and getting knocked down and getting back up. I think it takes a lot of courage and heart to play football.”
The contest marked the final football game of their career for HRV’s 12 seniors, who also include John Gray, Steven Swafford, Jonnie Knickerbocker and Forrest Thompson. The 12 Eagle seniors were honored in a pregame ceremony while accompanied by their parents.