After the player and fan celebrations in the middle of the Hillsboro Stadium field began to settle down on Saturday evening, Hermiston football coach David Faaeteete was able to catch his breath.
His Bulldogs had just claimed their second Oregon state title after defeating the No. 4 Churchill Lancers 38-25. But he is no stranger to a big win or to these types of celebrations.
Faaeteete was the assistant coach in 2014 when then-head coach Mark Hodges led Hermiston to its first ever state championship. He had previously played for Hodges at North Medford as one of his star defensive linemen, and continued his football career at the University of Oregon from 2005-07.
The win then in many ways prepared him for Saturday’s victory. He was better able to take in the moment, making sure he would remember each smiling face and every hug from players, friends and family.
But perhaps the most telling moment in all of this was the first words Faaeteete spoke to the media after Hermiston’s triumphant rise.
“Shout out to Churchill and their staff,” he said. “Those kids played hard and they didn’t give up. Big ups to them. Those guys played hard. Those guys played tremendous in the second half, answered and made us really have to earn this one.”
His quick praise of the efforts for the team that tried to take the title for themselves before that of the players on his own 50-man roster helps explain how the Bulldogs have been so level-headed throughout their OSAA Farewell Tour.
Faaeteete, just like any coach, recognizes every opponent at one moment or another after a game, but as he spoke highly of Churchill before mentioning Hermiston’s dual-threat quarterback Andrew James or star wide receiver Dayshawn Neal, it wasn’t hard to see where the rest of the team gets their winning attitude from.
When Faaeteete took over in 2015, he led the Bulldogs to their third consecutive league championship — fourth in program history — but it came with a losing record. Hermiston finished the season 4-6 after losing to Wilsonville 49-14 in Round 1 of the playoffs.
His Bulldogs responded the following year by going .500, finishing 5-5, also ending the 2016 season in the first round (a 12-7 loss to St. Helens). All the while the team was working out some kinks. Senior offensive lineman Beau Blake attributes some of the team’s difficulties to the attitude even he admits he had.
There was some division, he shared the week leading up to the state championship game, that didn’t allow the team to play to their full potential. That’s where Faaeteete comes in.
The 2017 season proved to be different, in many ways.
Hermiston was preparing to play its last season as a member of the OSAA, as it will be joining the WIAA starting with the 2018-19 school year. The Bulldogs no longer had a first-year starting quarterback at the helm, and the talent of the roster grew exponentially from efforts in the weight room.
The goal remained the same: to get to the state championship game and raise the first place trophy after 48 minutes of play.
But there was a different feeling in the air. Just ask Blake.
“He’s gotten better and it comes more natural to him,” Blake said of what he’s seen from Faaeteete over the last three years. “When he first started out you could tell that he had a lot of stress but now it’s all natural to him and he’s getting into his groove — his coaching groove.
“He’s a positive energy,” Blake added. “He’s always wanting you to do better, and he always tries to pick you up. He’s so knowledgeable about stuff and he’s been able to make a great team out of his energy and his coaching staff. It’s amazing what he’s done.”
That groove helped, as the Bulldogs wrapped up their best season under Faaeteete.
And as far as his players go, they have nothing but praise for their coach.
“I want to thank him,” Blake said. “He is the best, I love him to death. He’s so great. I just want to thank him for all he has done. He’s helped me so much, he’s helped this whole team and this program and I’m very proud of him for all he’s done.”
Said fellow senior Joey Gutierrez: “Thank you for pushing us and never letting us get down on ourselves, all those hard hours even though it sucked, it finally payed off and just hats off to him for keeping us all together and getting us here.”
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.