ATHENA — The Heppner Mustangs began the season with an uncharacteristic 0-3 start, as a tough preseason schedule had the team searching for success.
The Mustangs appear to be headed on the right track now with two consecutive victories now after thumping Weston-McEwen on its home field 52-12 on Friday night in the Columbia Basin Conference opener for both teams. Heppner (2-3, 1-0 CBC) dominated the game on the stat sheet, out-gaining Weston-McEwen (1-3, 0-1) 315-154 and winning the field position battle all game long.
“Obviously the win is great, but we all really came together as a team tonight and it felt good,” Heppner senior Beau Wolters said. “All of those little things you do in practice, it comes together with the whole team like tonight ... We’ve always had a rivalry with Weston-McEwen but we just came together and got a good team win tonight.”
Wolters stole the show for Heppner’s offense, as he fought through tackles and showed off his speed on numerous occasions and rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and also added one touchdown catch. Senior running back Coby Dougherty also got plenty of action out of the backfield, rushing for 72 yards on 10 carries with another three touchdowns for the Mustangs.
“I want to give a shoutout to my lineman,” Wolters said. “They’ve really been stepping up this week and worked on a lot of things in practice and stepped up this game. The one things I’ve really come to appreciate playing here is a good offensive line and they’ve really improved from that first game getting beat by St. Paul.”
Heppner scored the first points of the game in the first quarter when it capped off a 8-play, 61-yard drive when Coby Dougherty took a handoff on 4th-and-4 and ran it 14 yards into the end zone. A good two-point conversion made it an 8-0 lead for Heppner early in the first.
But Weston-McEwen answered Heppner’s drive with one of its own, and found the end zone on an inside handoff to Kelen McGill who broke a tackle and bounced outside for a 14-yard touchdown, but a failed two-point conversion kept Heppner in front 8-6. After that, it was all Mustangs.
Wolters took over on the next drive, breaking off a 41-yard rush that took Heppner into the red zone and then finishing off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown rush for a 14-6 Heppner lead early in the second quarter. Two possessions later, Heppner took over at the TigerScots’ 37 and on its first play of the drive Wolters took a sweep handoff and dashed 37 yards for a touchdown.
Coby Dougherty added his second touchdown of the game on a 20-yard rush late in the second quarter to send Heppner to halftime with a 32-6 lead and cruise in the second half.
Heppner rushed for 279 yards as a team as the offensive line won the battles in the trenches.
“We felt all along that we have an offensive front that can be good when they work together,” Grant said. “It’s all about communication and they all know what to do, but they’re all doing different things and not jelling. We’re finally starting to trust and do some things and we’re really close.”
While the win was good, it was a frustrating game for Grant and the Heppner coaches because of mistakes that piled up as the game went on. The defense struggled to tackle at times, letting Weston-McEwen turn big negative losses into positive gains, and the offense fell into lulls where the execution lacked.
“My assistant said it best, we’re mercurial. We look like we know what we’re doing one minute and the next minute we don’t,” Grant said. “The kids are trying really hard but we just have to clean up technique and things. I’m happy for them because they’ve been working hard and making strides, but I just know gee whiz if we can do a few things better how much better we can be. I’d love to see their effort be rewarded.”
For Weston-McEwen, the little offense it could muster mostly came from quarterback Brett Speed, as the senior ran for 62 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and also threw for 49 yards on 5 of 11 passing. Running back Jacob Speed was unable to show off his speed for most of the game, finishing with just one net rushing yard on eight carries. McGill was the team’s second leading rusher with 21 yards on seven carries with his score.
“They came out and punched us in the mouth over and over again,” Weston-McEwen coach Travis Glover said. “I’ve always said football is a game of inches and they took every one of them. Outside of that, we got beat by a great football team and we have to put things back together and get ready for Stanfield.”
Weston-McEwen will look to regroup next week at Stanfield while Heppner gets a bye week to try and clean up things before hosting Culver on Oct. 13.
“I’m happy for the kids,” Grant said. “We had a pretty tough start and a good couple of weeks to give the kids some confidence.”
HHS 8 24 8 12 — 52
W-M 6 0 6 0 — 12
PASSING — (HHS) J. Wilson 2-11, 23, TD, INT; K. Smith 1-1, 13. (W-M) B. Speed 5-11, 50, INT.
RUSHING — (HHS) Be. Wolters 15-151, 3TD; C. Dougherty 10-72, 3TD; G. Hanna-Robinson 5-34; Bl. Wolters 5-9; J. Wilson 2-10; K. Wilkins 1-9; J. Lehman 1-(-6). (W-M) B. Speed 15-62, TD; J. Speed 8-1; K. McGill 7-21, TD; B. Rudolph 4-(-2); P. Munck 3-19; L. Albert 2-17; V. Nowokowski 1-4; H. Lantz 1-(-2).
RECEIVING — (HHS) Bl. Wolters 1-16; G. Hanna-Robinson 1-13; Be. Wolters 1-7, TD. (W-M) P. Munck 5-50.
FIRST DOWNS — HHS 17, W-M 12. PENALTIES — HHS 6-55; W-M 5-30. TIME OF POSSESSION: HHS 19:49; W-M 28:11.
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