HERMISTON — For a handful off Bulldogs, Friday night’s game had a special meaning. For one Bulldog in particular, the 62-14 win over Redmond on senior night was a little bit sweeter.
After Hermiston participated in its tradition of walking the length of Kennison Field arm-in-arm one last time with the Class of 2018, the friends and family of Joey Gutierrez were waiting near the end zone. Minutes later, the small crowd broke out signing “Happy Birthday” as Gutierrez celebrated turning 18.
“It’s just all a perfect moment,” he said. “It’s what you dream of.”
Gutierrez was one of five Bulldogs to score, and it was his touchdown that brought the running clock rule into effect. If a team is leading by 45 or more points, the clock does not stop except for touchdowns and timeouts. Gutierrez’s two-yard rush up Hermiston up 55-7 half way through the third quarter, but by that point the Bulldogs’ fate was sealed.
The first 20 seconds of Hermiston’s home finale was a good indicator of what was to come. Junior Youbani Razon opened the game with a 82-yard punt return, and put fellow junior Andrew James and the rest of Hermiston’s offense in the red zone for their first drive. Seconds later senior Jonathan Hinkle ran eight yards to the end zone to give Hermiston an early 7-0 lead.
“It was a good kick off return that sent that thing up and I just finished it off,” Hinkle said of his seventh rushing touchdown of the season.
The Bulldogs (6-2 overall, 5-1 Special District 1) would put one more touchdown on the board — another short eight-yard rush from senior Dayshawn Neal — before breaking through in the second quarter.
Hermiston scored in rapid fire before halftime — three touchdowns in a five-minute span and two more just two minutes apart.
The Panthers’ quarterback struggles caught up with them Friday. There were six passes thrown for a total of 31 yards, and only half of them were completions. Redmond had to rely on its run, which in the end didn’t have much success either.
“The (singleback formation) is easiest for us to guard because that’s stuff we can see,” Gutierrez said. “I put it all on our coach (Scott) Hammond. He gets us ready and we just go out and play and execute.”
That they did. Redmond’s only first down in the first half was because of a face mask penalty on Hermiston and the Panthers (1-7, 1-5) could barely break through the defensive line. But Hermiston’s performance wasn’t perfect, and Redmond found its footing twice.
Senior Jack Taylor scored the Panthers only touchdowns of the night, a 78-yard run in the second quarter and another run for 49 yards in the third. It wasn’t due to a lack of effort on the Bulldogs part, as they made it extremely difficult for Taylor to break through a sea of purple. But a lack of execution in those moments gave Taylor all he needed to sprint down the field.
“We pretty much sured up everything we need to do on defense and took care of it for the most part,” head coach David Faaeteete said. “We had a couple lapses. We had guys wrapped up, but didn’t finish tackles. We have to get those things fixed.”
Redmond’s second quarter score was sandwiched in between five Hermiston touchdowns. A 39-yard connection from James to senior Luke Walchli started things off. Neal and Hinkle took care of the rest. Both of Hinkle’s touchdowns in the second quarter were on the ground — a 36-yard rush followed by a 12-yard run — and Neal would once again be James’ favorite target and bring home a 39-yarder and a 16-yard reception with no time left on the clock.
All sides of the ball were clicking, and that continued well into the second half with some No. 2 and 3’s in. Senior Garron Anderson would be the last Bulldog to score. His 6-yard run put the nail in the coffin and secured Hermiston’s 48-point victory.
“We just played all together, as a team, like everybody was blocking down field just going full speed,” Gutierrez said. “Everybody was in the game even the side lines were in it.”
James was able to sit out the fourth quarter with the comfortable lead and finished 8-of-10 for 157 yards and three touchdowns. He also had eight carries for 40 yards, but it was Hinkle who had the best ground game. Hinkle finished with 160 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries. Neal led the receivers with four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
Hermiston will finish its regular season in Round-Up Stadium. The Bulldogs will travel up the highway to face the Pendleton Buckaroos in their rivalry match up at 7 p.m. Friday.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.