The Hood River Valley High School football program, which dates all the way back to 1970, hasn’t seen anything quite like what the 2018-19 boys team accomplished against Benson on Sept. 21.
In the first high school varsity football game at Wy’east middle school since 1973, the Eagles beat Benson by a final score of 71-0 to move to 3-1 on the season and 2-1 in league play.
The 71-point margin of victory is now the largest in the history of the program, exceeding the 64-0 victory by the HRV football team back in 2004 over The Dalles.
Against the Techmen, HRV went into halftime up 57-0 behind a school-record six rushing touchdowns from starting senior tailback Brandon Rivera.
“Rivera has been key component in our offense this year and his skills were showcased against Benson,” said Hood River Valley head football coach Caleb Sperry. “He provides a skill set that thrives on quickness, which compliments both our running and passing game.”
“But it’d be tough to talk about Rivera without mentioning the offensive line,” said Sperry. “This offensive line is a group of guys who put in a lot of hard and physical work. They take pride about who they are and what they do.”
Less than a minute into the game last Friday, Rivera started off his historical day with a 49-yard rushing touchdown to put the Eagles up 7-0 with 11:09 left in the first quarter.
Two minutes later, after HRV’s defense blocked a punt, the Eagles’ offense put together a drive that was capped off by a 10-yard rushing touchdown for Rivera.
After a missed extra point, HRV went up 13-0 with under eight minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
The defense for HRV, which only allowed a total of 15 total yards in the game against Benson, forced a three-and-out on the ensuing offensive possession for the Techmen; putting the ball right back into the hands of Rivera.
HRV extended its lead to 20-0 after a 47-second drive of four plays for 28 yards that was finished off by Rivera, who scored his third rushing touchdown of the game on a carry of two yards to the endzone.
Up by a convincing 20 points in the first quarter, HRV elected to onside kick the football following Rivera’s third touchdown of the game, but Benson would recover the ball and take over at midfield.
The first offensive play for Benson, after the onside kick, was a pass play that was nearly picked off by junior defensive back Gunnar Hardy, who had an open field to the endzone ahead of him but was unable to secure the catch.
Three plays later, Benson was faced with a fourth and four, which the Techmen elected to go for, but a stifling Eagles defense forced the turnover on downs and HRV would take over at the Eagles 44-yard line.
After a holding penalty to open HRV’s fourth drive of the game, backup tailback Beto Rojas carried the ball for a gain of 45 yards to set the Eagles up at Benson’s 21-yard line.
Seconds later, junior quarterback Ryan Gray lobbed a ball up into the air that connected with Jacob Enriquez, who then made a defender miss after making the grab on a post route near the right corner of the goal line, for a 21-yard touchdown reception.
The passing touchdown for Gray was one of only two completions on six total passing attempts for the junior quarterback versus Benson.
At the end of the first quarter, HRV led 27-0.
On the opening drive of the second quarter, Benson quickly fell behind on the chains and on fourth and 19, the Techmen were unable to pick up the first down and HRV took over only 20 yards away from the endzone.
In the offense’s second quarter opening drive, HRV had a holding penalty that whipped away a 17-yard run by Rojas. A false start followed, moving HRV back to Benson’s 37-yard line.
On first down from the 37-yard line, Gray dropped back in the pocket to throw and had his pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. With the ball spiraling in the air, a Benson lineman came up with the ball for the interception.
On the ensuing offensive possession for Benson and nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Techmen offense and Eagle defense combined for six penalty flags in a row and both crowds became uneasy as boo’s surrounded the field.
After what was a messy stretch of football, senior defensive back Brad Long picked off Benson’s freshman quarterback Sam Farber and returned it for six, but a block in the back penalty erased the pick-six off the board and moved the ball back to Benson’s 31-yard line.
HRV’s offense advanced the ball up into the red-zone, but on fourth and goal, Rivera was unable to punch it in for six. In one of the few times on the night, Benson stopped the HRV running game and took over their one-yard line.
But with the whole field ahead of them and the Techmen offense having less than 10 yards in the game halfway through the second quarter, HRV’s linebacker Nathaniel Quintanilla and defensive lineman Cesar Gamboa got into the Benson back field on the first offensive play for Benson and forced a safety.
The safety, with under six minutes remaining before halftime, put the Eagles up 29-0.
On the punt return, Rojas returned it for a huge gain of 33 yards to set up HRV at Benson’s 25-yard line.
Rivera on the first play of the drive fought off defenders at the line of scrimmage and carried Benson’s defensive backfield on his way to his fourth touchdown of the game on a 25-yard rushing touchdown, putting HRV ahead 36-0 with five minutes left in the second quarter.
The kickoff was then recovered by HRV at Benson’s 22-yard line.
Six plays later, Rojas carried the ball for a three-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 43-0.
With three-minutes left in the game, HRV intercepted Farber a second time, and senior defensive back Pierce Klein brought in the interception.
Once again, Rivera took the first play following the Benson turnover for six. Rivera scored his fifth touchdown on a 34-yard run that put HRV up 50-0.
The ensuing HRV kickoff was again recovered by the Eagles and HRV took over at Benson’s 40-yard line.
On the first play of the drive, Rivera scored on a 40-yard rushing touchdown for his record-setting sixth touchdown of the game to put HRV up 57-0 heading into halftime.
In the second half, HRV outscored Benson 14-0 to come away with the 71-0 victory, moving to 3-1 on the season and 2-1 in league play.
“This group ahead of this season wanted to be a playoff team and we’re heading in the right direction,” said Sperry. “We have to keep focusing on the next opponent and worrying about our next game; it’s time for us to play clean, play fast and one week at a time.”
Rivera’s six rushing touchdowns put him above former running backs Jacobe Krizman (2002) and Patrick Crompton (2014) for total rushing touchdowns in a single game, who each shared the record with five rushing touchdowns in a single game.
The six rushing touchdowns by Rivera also ties the record for total touchdowns scored in a single game by an HRV athlete, tying former HRV quarterback Cody Walker who threw six passing touchdowns against Hermiston in 2010.
Rivera also moves to eighth all-time in total rushing yards in a game as he racked up 264 yards on the ground versus Benson.
HRV totaled 384 rushing yards and Rojas finished behind Rivera with 74 yards and a touchdown.
Chad Muenzer and Preston Armstrong each had one rushing touchdown to round out the Eagles’ nine total rushing touchdowns versus Benson.
In what was clearly a running backs game, Gray at quarterback finished with one touchdown and an interception on 2-6 passing attempts for 31 yards.
Defensively, HRV held Benson to only 15 total yards on 41 offensive plays.
The Eagles were also plus-four in the turnover battle as they forced two interceptions and three fumbles on Benson.
HRV ended with five tackles-for-loss and Rojas led the way with two. Muenzer, Wyatt Miles and Timmy Fletcher each had one tackle-for-loss.
Next up, HRV will travel to La Salle Prep on Friday, Sept. 28 to face the also 3-1 Falcons.
On Sept. 14, La Salle beat Benson at home by a final score of 56-20 and are coming off a 35-7 victory over Putnam last week.
The Falcons currently are one of two league teams that remain undefeated in league play, the other being the 3-0 Pendleton Buckaroos.
“This is going to be a big game for us because if we win versus La Salle, we put ourselves in second place in the division with only three games left on the season,” said Sperry. “We’re going to try and get after it against La Salle. We want to capitalize on the things we have control over and keep our focus on execution.”
Kick-off between the Falcons and Eagles is scheduled for 7 p.m. at La Salle Prep; a win for HRV would move them to second place in league standings, behind Pendleton.