PENDLETON — The Pendleton Buckaroos knew that if they wanted to upset the Mountain View Cougars on Friday night, their offense would have to start fast, operate with balance and efficiency and reach the end zone. It would have to offset Mountain View’s dominant rushing attack that has earned well over 1,000 yards on the season.
Pendleton got the ball first on Friday night and started exactly how they wanted to. The Bucks moved 80 yards on six plays in the opening drive, scoring on a 12-yard run by quarterback Nick Bower for a 6-0 lead just 2 minutes, 13 seconds into the game.
But then, things fell apart.
After that drive, Pendleton lost its rhythm and tallied just 115 total yards on its next seven possessions. Meanwhile, Mountain View’s offense ground out 324 rushing yards and ate up 30 minutes, 8 seconds of game clock to pull out a 21-6 victory over the Bucks at the Round-Up Arena.
“We had a pretty good offensive game plan going in, knowing what we wanted to do early, but (Mountain View) made some pretty good adjustments and we just weren’t in a rhythm,” Pendleton coach Erik Davis said. “Our defense was on the field it seemed like the entire game and against a team like (Mountain View) that just grinds it out was tough.”
Mountain View (6-0 overall, 4-0 Special District 1) was carried to the win by a physical offensive line and the workhorse running back, Jonas Larson. The junior ran the ball a whopping 48 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the game, upping his season total to more than 1,200 rushing yards. He carried the team on a 93-yard drive that ate up more than 8 minutes of clock in the second quarter, running 14 times for 80 yards with a 1-yard score to put his Cougars on top 14-6 before halftime.
“That really just wore us out,” Davis said. “And the offense is just sitting on the sideline, hoping to get the football back, that just takes a toll more on your psyche than anything else. They just kept moving the chains and hats off to (Larson) and the offensive line for blocking.”
But as dominant as the Cougars were, the Buckaroos (3-3, 2-2) had a few prime chances that could have changed the outcome of the game. After forcing a Cougar punt to start the third quarter, Pendleton drove the ball to the Cougars 35 before the offense stalled out and had to punt. And then just three plays later, the Bucks recovered a Larson fumble at the Cougars 30 with 5:13 left in the third quarter.
However, the Buckaroos came away empty-handed. Pendleton picked up one first down before the offense again stalled at the 19 and turned it over on downs.
“We just have to capitalize on things like that fumble,” said Bower, who finished 10 for 21 passing for 139 yards and one interception. “We have to put the ball in the end zone and if you’re not going to capitalize on things like that you’re not going to win.”
Pendleton forced another Cougars punt early in the fourth quarter, getting the ball back on its own 32 with 11:04 left to play. But the Cougars defense tightened up and forced a three-and-out. That set up a 16-play, 78-yard back-breaking drive for the Cougars offense as Larson shifted his way through Pendleton’s defense for a 14-yard score to ice the game.
“They’re a good football team, we knew that coming in,” Davis said, “but we had our opportunities and I think that’s what hurts in the gut more than anything else. We had our opportunities to play with, if not beat a really, really good football team and just came up short.”
Pendleton’s defense was not at full-strength in the game, as junior outside linebacker Willie Camp was out after having an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday, and will keep him out for at least two more weeks. Then later, the injury bug bit Pendleton hard again as junior running back/linebacker Shawn Yeager was tackled awkwardly and missed most of the fourth quarter with a right leg injury, and is expected to miss some time.
But with all that, Davis was proud of the way his team continually fought in the game, even as fatigued and depleted as they were.
“I’ll say it 100 times about this group, they’re high-character kids and not once have I seen them fold up shop and give up,” Davis said. “Did we wear out? Yes. But they didn’t give up and that’s something to continue to build on. I’m excited about where this football team is, we were right there with a top 3 team in the state ... our goal of being a playoff team is still in-tact and now we’ll go try and take care of Hood River.”
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