HERMISTON — The Hermiston football team entered the week focused, with their season-long goal in the back of their minds.
Going into Friday’s Class 5A Quarterfinal game, Hermiston was one of eight teams left standing in the state after 10 long weeks of football. Now, the No. 3 Bulldogs are one of only four teams left after routing the No. 6 South Albany Rebels 40-22 at Kennison Field.
It was Hermiston’s fourth consecutive game scoring 40 or more points, and its sixth of the season. The high scoring affair was thanks to big plays on all three sides of the ball.
Friday night opened with a 60-plus-yard kickoff return from senior Dayshawn Neal that set up Hermiston’s first scoring drive — a two-yard connection between quarterback Andrew James and running back Jonathan Hinkle.
These first two minutes set the tone as the Bulldogs (9-2 overall) went on to score 21 unanswered points seconds before halftime.
“If we have a good start it honestly makes the rest of the game — you have to set the tone,” junior Youbani Razon said. “So we set the tone really early in the game and that helped us win.”
What also helped was two 80-plus-yard runs to the house, a four-touchdown night from James, and South Albany turnovers — four recovered fumbles and two interceptions.
Hermiston’s defense put pressure on senior quarterback Jake Costello and crew all night. In the Rebels first drive, they went three-and-out. Their second ended with a forced fumble from Hinkle that Hermiston converted into its second touchdown to take a 14-0 lead.
On the ensuing punt return, South Albany fumbled again and Hermiston recovered, again. Luckily for the Rebels (6-5), the Bulldogs couldn’t convert on third-and-long but on the next drive, South Albany continued to make mistake after mistake.
Finally, with 28.6 seconds left until halftime, the Rebels were able to find the end zone. After a 76-yard drive down the field Costello found junior Eli Nafziger for three yards.
Costello ended the night 24-of-34 for 331 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
His mistakes, or Hermiston’s ability to make big plays when it counts, cost the Rebels late in the game.
After the break, the Rebels scored again — this time, off a 31-yard touchdown pass to senior Anthony Pulido. This put South Albany within a touchdown of Hermiston, 21-14.
The Bulldogs responded with a 83-yard score from Hinkle on the very first play of the drive, as the senior took the handoff and sprinted untouched to the end zone.
“They just scored on back-to-back possessions, so I was just trying to make a huge play for us to get the momentum back,” Hinkle said. “I saw the hole and I wasn’t going to let anyone catch me. So, I just ran as hard as I could.”
The senior, who plays both sides of the ball, had a night to remember. He finished with 210 yards on just 15 carries and notched two scores.
By the fourth quarter the Bulldogs led 34-14, but even with their large lead South Albany was close to catching up. A series of penalties on Hermiston’s defense put the Rebels on the 9-yard line. One of those penalties was a defensive pass interference on Razon, who one play later made up for it as he wrestled away a pass for an interception on the end zone.
“Coach said I had to make up for it, and I knew I had to make a play here,” Razon said. “I saw the quarterback looking at (my receiver) so I was like, ‘I need to make a play on the ball,’ and I went in for the ball, I caught it. (The receiver) tried to pull it out and it just happened.”
Razon’s interception set up Hermiston’s final scoring drive, an 80-yard effort from Joey Gutierrez to reach the game-winning total of 40 points.
The Bulldogs would give up one more score in the final seconds of the game, but by that point their fate was sealed.
A lot just happened for the Bulldogs on Friday night, due in part to the efforts of a hard week of practice and the coaches.
“Fundamentals are what got us here and it’s what we’re going to continue to work on,” Faaeteete said. “Credit to our coaches and how they prepare for games, and then our players listening and buying into what we’re teaching. It’s just a great effort from the whole group.”
Now, the whole group will move on to the semifinals next week. Hermiston will travel to Liberty High School in Hillsboro to take on No. 2 Wilsonville. Wilsonville defeated No. 10 Lebanon 31-7 to move on to the next round. Kickoff for the semifinal match up has yet to be determined.
SA 0 7 7 8 — 22
HHS 14 7 14 6 — 40
PASSING — (SA) J. Costello 24-34, 331 yds, 2TD, 2INT; A. Pulido 0-1. (HHS) A. James 14-22, 213 yds, 4 TD.
RUSHING — (SA) G. Teem 11-94, TD; J. Costello 15-26; R. Wilson 5-13. (HHS) J. Hinkle 15-210, 2TD; P. Earl 8-48; A. James 7-45; K. Mikami 2-18; D. Neal 2-4; J. Gutierrez 1-(-4).
RECEIVING — (SA) A. Pulido 9-118, TD; E. Nafziger 6-90, TD; C. Hemzacek 3-39; J. Dunn 3-60; S. Cullison 2-10; C. Romviel 1-3. (HHS) D. Neal 5-70, TD; J. Gutierrez 4-88, 2TD; J. Ramirez 2-39; K. Mikami 2-9, TD; T. Rohrman 1-7.
TOTAL YARDS — SA 464, HHS 534. TURNOVERS — SA 6 (4 fumbles, 2 INT), HHS 0. PENALTIES — SA 4-35, HHS 12-105.
Contact Alexis at email@example.com or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.