When the Friday night lights shine over Kennison Field, they’ll usher Hermiston into a new era with brand-new opponents and brand-new stakes.
Friday marks Hermiston’s first game as a member of the WIAA and its Mid-Columbia Conference, when the defending OSAA Class 5A state champions host Pasco High School for a Bulldog versus Bulldog showdown at 7 p.m.
“The guys are excited to play, and the coaches are anxious,” said Hermiston football coach David Faaeteete following Wednesday’s practice. “We want to kick off the kids’ senior year with a good start.”
There’s a lot at stake here, and it’s not just to prove which school are the stronger Bulldogs. Even though Pasco is coming off of a 0-10 record last season, the school has three state championships to its name and a first-year head coach in alumnus Leon Wright-Jackson that should have the team more competitive. And Hermiston knows it needs to be ready for a fight.
“Pasco is full of energy. I know the coach very well, and their kids are excited about the game of football,” Faaeteete said. “They’re a tradition-rich school and one of the teams to beat this year.”
Faaeteete says Hermiston has a lot to prove going into this season, being the new school in the league. Although the school and community is growing every year, he still sees them as a small Oregon town with big aspirations.
“Everyone sets lofty goals the beginning of the season,” he said. “Our goal going in is to improve one game and one week at a time. ...We have to earn that respect from our opponents. We’ve got that small-town pride.”
He noted that Hermiston’s seniors are particularly fired up to face Pasco on Friday night, saying that they have a lot to prove to both themselves and the class that came before them. It’s a new league, which means entirely new rivals, and the chance to set a new standard for their team — a standard even higher than the one set last year when they took home the Class 5A state title.
“They want to prove that they can carry Hermiston on their chests, and that they have the right to wear the jersey,” he said. “The WIAA is new to us. Who says we can’t contest for a title we’ve never played for?”