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FOOTBALL: Dawgs return home to host Eagles

Alexis Mansanarez

East Oregonian

Published on September 27, 2017 12:01AM

Last changed on September 28, 2017 1:13PM

Dayshawn Neal, of Hermiston, exults after intercepting the ball a non-conference game against Lewiston at Kennison Field earlier this season.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Dayshawn Neal, of Hermiston, exults after intercepting the ball a non-conference game against Lewiston at Kennison Field earlier this season.

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HERMISTON — After dethroning Summit last Friday, the Hermiston Bulldogs are dialed in and focused on continuing their style of play this week back home at Kennison Field.

Hermiston welcomes Hood River Valley, a team that was winless in 2016 but is now hungry for a playoff birth.

The Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 Special District 1) have spent the last two weeks on the road, splitting the two games after falling to the No. 2 Mountain View Cougars on Sept. 15. As they prepare to face the Eagles (2-1, 1-1), that loss is well in the past and Hermiston has fresh tape to work off of that highlights a near-perfect performance from quarterback Andrew James.

The junior finally showed what head coach David Faaeteete has seen week in and week out at practice. He finished 17-of-20 for 256 yards and three touchdowns against Summit. James didn’t throw a single interception and kept his feet moving, racking up 84 rushing yards on 13 carries. It was his best performance as play caller since Hermiston’s 54-0 win against Ridgeview last season.

“You know it’s there, you see it at practice every day,” Faaeteete said. “The game plan worked, everything was there. We made the right reads, he made great reads on his feet, ran the ball well, threw it well ­— just a great execution.”

For James, and the rest of the Bulldogs, to put on another show against Hood River they will have to carry their successes from last week into this game against a hungry Eagles team.

Last year was tough for Hood River. It suffered some big blows, as only two games were decided by less than 27 points. But the experience junior quarterback Caden Leiblein and the rest of the squad picked up has been valuable this time around.

The Eagles opened up its 2017 season defeating St. Helens and Ridgeview by a combined score of 87-21. However, they will land in Hermiston coming off a 34-16 loss to Bend.

“I think that’s a good Hood River team,” Faaeteete said. “They are coached well. They do fundamental things really well. They’ve got a great quarterback, the kid is pretty athletic and accurate with his arm. They played a bad game at Bend, you know it happens and they are going to come in here wanting a win.”

In Leiblein’s sophomore season, and his first year at the helm of the team, he threw for 1,631 yards, 14 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He has already turned things around this year with the help of 17 returning starters.

Protecting Leiblein and star running back Michael Jones, who is back for his senior season after suffering through a year of injuries, are protected by a big offensive line unit. Leading the group is senior Wade Pickering. The 6-foot 2-inch 240-pound lineman will give the Bulldog defense some trouble.

“This is our home turf we’ve got to defend it,” he continued. “We’ve got to lay everything out and put our foot down on the gas and just keep going. We’re not worried about what they’re going to do. We have to concern ourselves with our execution, or fundamental tackling, everything that we need to do to take of what we control.”

That was the key in last week’s win and will be the factor that plays into the outcome of Friday’s game.

Kick off is set for 7 p.m.

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Contact Alexis at amansanarez@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.



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