HERMISTON — After the Hermiston football team’s 40-14 win at home last week, head coach David Faaeteete had some immediate goals.
He wanted to focus on three things in the upcoming week of practice that plagued the Bulldogs (3-2 overall, 2-1 Special District 1) despite earning their second league win. They including play at the defensive line, special teams execution, and ball leverage with the younger players.
When facing a winless team in the Ridgeview Ravens on Friday, Hermiston will likely have success on special teams and the No. 2’s and 3’s may get some playing time if they Bulldogs’ manage to get to a comfortable lead, but it will be the defensive line that will be tested on the road in Redmond.
The Ravens (0-5, 0-3) have struggled since their 13-1 state championship season in 2013. Ridgeview has won eight total games in the past three years, and only two of those were during league play. The biggest problem has been its offense, which has lacked balance these past few seasons. While this season the Ravens have yet to prove they have any sort of stability, they do posses a weapon the Bulldogs have not seen before: senior running back Conner Benz.
Ridgeview’s sixth year head coach Andy Codding noted before the season even started that he is the best pure running back since the championship team. However, his efforts have done little as the Ravens are reeling from their 11th consecutive loss a week ago.
Benz does pose a threat to Hermiston’s line, as the Bulldogs gave up 186 yards on 46 total carries against Hood River Valley last week.
In fact, they have only held two teams to under 100 rushing yards this season, Lewiston (89) and Summit (64). Even though Hermiston came out victorious in both of those match ups, it will need to play disciplined football on both sides of the ball to keep its postseason hopes alive.
Offensively, the Bulldogs have tightened up over the past few weeks and junior quarterback Andrew James has had impressive outings both home and away.
He led the team to a 34-14 victory over Summit on Sept. 22 after completing 17-of-20 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Last week, his numbers weren’t as high but they were just as accurate. He finished 10-of-11 for 200 yards and two scores. James hasn’t thrown an interception since the four he recorded in Hermiston’s season opener, and has been just as effective on the ground as well.
In the Bulldogs’ Sept. 15 game against the Mountain View Cougars, James passed the 1,000-yard career rushing mark and earned his 10th career rushing touchdown.
“Going through a game and not throwing any picks and making completions and moving the ball down the field that’s huge for anyone’s confidence,” James said. “It’s great to know that we can do those things, and we can move the ball down the field, and we can put over 30-points up.”
James will have one of his favorite targets Friday in senior Dayshawn Neal, who has eclipsed 500 yards on the season and racked up six touchdowns on 36 receptions. And not only will James have his own feet to rely on but those of senior running backs Jonathan Hinkle and Peter Earl. The duo combined for a total of 435 yards and five scores. The offensive effort from Hermiston has led to some big time plays, and big time wins.
In the Bulldogs’ two league wins, they put up a combined 34 points, and held their opponents to only four touchdowns. The plan will remain the same this week, as Hermiston looks to distance itself from the competition.
“We’re just trying to keep our pace like we’ve been doing the past few weeks,” James said. “Our offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks and we’re just trying to keep that up-paced tempo and keep the ball moving up and down the field.”
A high score in favor of Hermiston is a reasonable assumption to make, as Ridgeview has given up 40 or more points in four out of five games this season, and seven times last year.
Kick off will be at 7 p.m. at Ridgeview High School.