PENDLETON — Immediately after the Pendleton Buckaroos’ dominant 34-2 win over Putnam on Saturday, the team knew not to do too much celebrating.
That’s because lurking the next week was the start of Special District 1 play against the 5A powerhouse Summit Storm.
“This is a huge confidence boost but we have to take it with a grain of salt. We open league with a really good Summit team next week, so we’ll enjoy this for a bit but we have to get back to business on Monday,” Pendleton senior Nick Bower said after Saturday’s game.
The Buckaroos (1-1) have been putting in their share of work this week in the mornings before Round-Up takes over the town in the afternoon. Head coach Erik Davis said on Wednesday that Round-Up week is usually a nervous time for him, switching to morning practices and hoping players stay out of any trouble. But that after last week’s adventure of indoor practices and game delays, he feels more confident in the character of his team.
“Normally yes, but these kids are resilient,” he said. “Every day they’re out there at 8 a.m. and I’m not having to call them up to get up there. But it’s just what we do at Pendleton, we adapt and go about our work.”
The Storm (1-1) will have a bit of a different look than the last two meetings with the Bucks, as first-year coach Corben Hyatt replaces Joe Padilla and stud quarterback John Bledsoe was lost to graduation. However, the Storm still look to be a very strong team this year on both sides of the ball. Henry Bledsoe took over at quarterback and has a plethora of athletes to distribute the ball to. Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe is the father of both Summit quarterbacks.
On defense the Storm remains a stout group, led by senior defensive lineman Noah Turnbull who was an all-league player a year ago. Summit’s only loss so far came on the road to 6A Clackamas 49-22 and then it picked up win No. 1 last week in a 46-0 shutout of Ashland.
“Watching film, they’re very, very athletic,” Davis said of the Storm. “Their front seven is as good as we’ve seen, the linebackers play aggressive. We’ll have to play as good of a game as we can to be able to compete, but I think we can do it.”
Here are a few other things to keep an eye out on in Friday’s match up:
WHICH DEFENSE WILL SHOW? After issues appeared in Week 1, Pendleton’s defense seemed to correct some issues with authority as the unit pitched a shut out against Putnam on Saturday. However, the Buckaroos were facing a one-dimensional team and now will start off league with one of the top teams and most balanced offenses in Class 5A with Summit.
Pendleton’s cornerbacks of Ian Bannister and Cam Sandford struggled in pass coverage against La Grande and will need to be better against Summit if the Buckaroos want to start off league play 1-0 and keep the momentum going. Shaw Jerome will be back at his safety position and Cam Sandford should be healthy enough to return to his cornerback position, which will give the Buckaroos a big boost from the start.
KEEP ON RUNNING, BUCKS: It has been a recurring theme here for three straight weeks now, but it is for a reason.
Pendleton’s success in the running game with backs Shawn Yeager and Aiden Patterson lifted an immense amount of pressure from QB Nick Bower and allowed the senior to have one of his most efficient games of his career as a starter. It will be even more important for Pendleton to keep that balance going this week against a higher-quality team and defense in Summit, helping to extend drives and keep the Storms’ dangerous offense off the field.
FIGHT FOR THE BALL: A common talking point for coaches and players in keys for any game is to win the turnover battle. And through two weeks has correlated to Pendleton’s one victory and one loss.
Against La Grande, Pendleton turned the ball over four times and forced three on defense, and then against Putnam the Buckaroos had zero turnovers and forced two more. The turnover differential could be a big part of the outcome of Friday’s game.
“Nick has to take care of the football and help us move the ball and pick up first downs,” Davis said. “To be honest, we’ve got to be perfect.”
Kick off is set for 7 p.m. at the Pendleton High athletic field.
Contact Eric at email@example.com or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.