HERMISTON — The Hermiston Bulldogs were coming off a not-so-hot week of practice to open Round 1 of the 5A playoffs. But after a sluggish start, the Bulldogs (8-2) responded in only a way they could and defeated La Salle Prep 47-12 to move onto to the quarterfinals.
Last week, the mantra was win one to host one more. This week, as Hermiston welcomes South Albany for its first quarterfinal home game, there’s a new saying.
“We keep telling our kids that we are one of eight,” head coach David Faaeteete said. “After this week, we have a chance to be one of four.”
Faaeteete and quarterback Andrew James both admitted that before entering last week’s game, the Bulldogs didn’t have their greatest week of practice. That’s not the case as they enter Week 11.
“They were way more dialed in on Monday’s practice than they were last week,” Faaeteete said Tuesday. “Last week was maybe an emotional roller coaster, after the big Pendleton win and going into their first playoff game, but now they have settled down quite a bit.”
The plan going into the week is the same as it has been all season. Hermiston will look to establish the play action pass by setting up the ground game early, and fans can count on seeing playmakers continuing to make big plays as the Bulldogs will work on finding whoever the open receiver is. As of late, that’s been more than just senior Dayshawn Neal.
Last week, junior wide receiver Youbani Razon showed what a true asset he’s been for Hermiston late this season, and came up big in the fourth quarter with a 33-yard touchdown.
Razon and junior Jordan Ramirez have been making their presence known late in Hermiston’s season, and gives the Bulldogs more options down field.
Ramirez echoed Faaeteete’s sentiments Wednesday after practice, and feels that he and the team are in a good place to take on the Rebels.
“We’re going in pretty confident in what we’re going to do this weekend,” he said. “(This week) we just came in with a better menatlity. We just know we’ve got to get it done to move on to the next round.”
With all of this excitement on offense, the defense definitely didn’t disappoint.
They improved to 14 total interceptions on the season, after Gutierrez picked off La Salle Prep’s quarterback in the third quarter and senior Peter Earl in the fourth.
Hermiston will need another big defensive performance against South Albany, who has had some of its greatest postseason success ever.
The Bulldogs enter with their same tough mentality, and Gutierrez is excepting a tough match up despite the Rebels’ postseason inexperience.
“(We’re expecting) a hard fought game, smash mouth football,” he said. “They are a punch first team kind of like how Moutain View is so we’ve just got to be ready for that.”
The Rebels (6-4), who finished co-champion of the Mid-Willamette Conference after going 5-1 in league play during the regular season, will be in uncharted territory when they travel four hours east to Kennison Field. This is their first ever quarterfinal appearance in school history.
South Albany got here by a well placed 28-yard field goal attempt from junior kicker Ozzie Ramirez and an interception in the end zone to seal the 23-16 victory over Crater.
The Rebels had plenty of playmakers in only their fourth postseason win in program history (1999, 2008, 2010, 2017). Costello made up for his first half performance and ended 8-of 16 for 47 yards passing and had 113 rushing yards off 21 carries. But it was senior running back Ray Wilson led the run with 57 yards on just 19 carrie and a touchdown.
South Albany might not present the same threat in the air that Hermiston has seen from other team’s on its schedule, but Costello’s athleticsm could test a still improving defensive line.
The Rebels’ offense has yet to earn a resounding victory this year, as four of their six wins have been determined by 10 points or fewer.
But making it this far into the postseason means something has been working for the squad.
“Every eight teams that are in right now are going to be tough,” Ramirez said. “So we’re just going to go out and play.”
It will be up to the Bulldogs to keep the Rebels one dimensional and pressure the inexperienced postseason team if they want to end the week one of four.
“We just want to be 1-0 at the end of the week,” Gutierrez said, “that’s all we look forward to.”
The game will be broadcasted on AM 1360 KOHU, and live streamed via the HSD Communications YouTube channel. The winner of Friday’s game will go on to play the victor of the Lebanon-Wilsonville match up in the semifinals on Nov. 18.
Contact Alexis at email@example.com or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.