PENDLETON — Mark your calendars, as Friday, October 27, 2017, was the final battle in the War on 84.
Pendleton and Hermiston met for the final time at the Round-Up Grounds for the last game of the regular season. The Bulldogs entered the contest on a five-game winning streak, and the Buckaroos needed a win to keep their season alive.
Hermiston’s 42-15 blow to Pendleton on its home turf puts the Buckaroos (5-4 overall, 4-3 Special District 1) in the hot seat while they have to wait to see if their season will continue. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs (7-2, 6-1) can relish in the fact they will forever hold the last bragging rights in the 95-year rivalry.
“I’m super elated,” head coach David Faaeteete said. “The guys came out and competed and did what they had to do to get a win. Even when Pendleton tried to make it interesting, we responded and kept responding. Defense came away with some big plays. ... They took the best shots and they marched back and it was just fun to watch and great to be apart of.”
Hermiston drew first blood, and put its first touchdown on the board just two minutes into the game. Quarterback Andrew James found Dayshawn Neal for 19 yards, and gave the Bulldogs their first lead. The score was Neal’s only catch of the night, but the heavy coverage down the field on Hermiston’s top target did not slow down the offense.
James would take matters into his own hands, and run in a 76-yard touchdown that put Hermiston up 14-0 going into the second quarter.
“As an offensive coordinator, you just take what’s there and they’re tripling Dayshawn,” Faaeteete said. “So, it was just establishing the run game. ... All of those guys that get to touch the rock just commit to the run game, and we can throw it when we need to.”
As it turns out, Hermiston wouldn’t need to throw that often. James finished the night 4-for-8 for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs ate up the first 12 minutes as Pendleton struggled to get anything going. Keaton Mikami played a big role in that, and sacked Pendleton quarterback Nick Bower twice, while Jonathon Hinkle wrapped Bower up to force one of many Pendleton three-and-outs just a few plays later.
“He played great tonight,” Faaeteete said of Mikami’s performance. “He got off that block and contained the passer and made some great hits on the quarterback. It was just good.”
There was plenty that was just good on Friday night.
James went on to rush 191 yards and two touchdowns. Hinkle had 15 carries for 141 yards and one touchdown.
“There was good play calling all night, and just players making big plays,” James said after the win and earning the Great American Rivalry Series MVP.
Senior Joey Gutierrez got in on the action and took a short pass from James and ran it over 70 yards to put the Bulldogs up 29-15 going into the fourth quarter.
“I just got to score,” Gutierrez recalls thinking as he moved down the field. “I saw no body in front of me and I was just thinking in my head, keep going because I started to cramp at the 20, but I just had to keep going.”
Hermiston also kept going and going. The Bulldogs wore down the Buckaroos defense and racked up 505 total offensive yards — 363 on the ground and 142 in the air. Their physicality and improvement on defense gave Pendleton little if any chances.
“Going into the game we didn’t except their front five to be that physical and they were able to dominate our front seven,” Pendleton head coach Erik David said. “That’s pretty obvious that they were able to run at will. We were able to shut down their big passing game but when you can’t do both facets of the game usually you don’t come out successful.”
Bower went 23-for-40 for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bucks were able to take advantage of the few mistakes Hermiston made, and worked their way 68 yards — with the help of a well executed fake punt — into the end zone for a score. Cam Sandford’s three-yard touchdown reception kept the game close for the next quarter and a half.
Pendleton entered halftime down 14-8, and fired a 63-yard connection from Bower to Sandford to take a one-point lead after a successful two=point conversion. That was the last successful drive the Bucks would have.
After Gutierrez’s touchdown pass put the game back in Hermiston’s favor, he came back on defense to make a game-changing play that he attributed to luck.
“It was a lucky play,” he said. “I’d say but it was where I was supposed to be. Thank the guy for not catching it, because I did.”
From there Hermiston ran away with the game. Hinkle ran in his lone rushing touchdown — 24 yards on a third down. James sprinted 54 yards down the field to extend the Bulldogs’ lead into the game-ending score of 42-15. It was the cherry on top of Hermiston’s OSAA Farewell Tour.
“We just want to play great football going into the playoffs,” Faaeteete said. “It was a great rivalry game, a great battle early on and our guys just outlasted and outworked and it was just a fun effort by anybody. As we get ready for whoever we’re playing next, we’re just going to prepare like we normally do. Dot our I’s, cross our T’s and have some fun.”
Hermiston heads to the 5A playoffs as the No. 3 seed and will host No. 14 La Salle Prep in the first round next week. Pendleton sneaks into the playoffs for the first time since 2014 as the No. 13 seed and will travel to No. 4 Churchill.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.