A quick glance at the stat sheet for Hermiston’s Andrew James’ 2017 season is enough to make your eyes pop out of your head.
Through the air he totaled more than 2,300 yards and 29 touchdowns, a 63-percent completion percentage, a QB rating of 123 and a mere five interceptions. And on the ground he compiled 1,142 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, while turning the ball over just one time. On top of that, he made 45 total tackles from his linebacker spot in the middle of the Bulldogs’ defense.
And he put together those numbers while orchestrating his Hermiston Bulldogs to an 11-2 overall record and the school’s second state championship.
James’ output earned him plenty of individual accolades to accompany his state championship medal and ring — he was named first team all-district and first team all-state. And now James adds one more as the 2017 East Oregonian All-Area Player of the Year.
“I got to give it up to everyone on my team, I wouldn’t have put up anywhere close to those stats if it wasn’t for those guys out there,” James said, in an interview.
He also admitted that the type of numbers he would produce would often catch him by surprise.
“You play the game and you don’t know what happened right as soon as you get off the field,” he said, “and then (the media) comes out with the stats and you look back like ‘Oh, wow, I did that tonight?”
This season was a giant leap on the field for the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder, who was in his second season as Hermiston’s starting quarterback. James won the job as a slender sophomore in 2016 and showed plenty of potential throughout Hermiston’s 10 game-schedule, totaling more than 2,500 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns. However, at times he reminded people that he was still a sophomore and a first-year starter. He completed 57 percent of his passes with 11 interceptions, three lost fumbles and a QB rating of 84.7.
“It was a new step for me last year, of course it was uncovered ground,” James said. “It was a rough season but we had amazing athletes back then and it was tough going through the season dropping games we shouldn’t have.”
James went to work in the offseason knowing there was plenty of room to grow as a quarterback, learning to stay in the pocket longer to let routes develop. He also worked into a better rhythm with his receivers. He not only wanted to perform better for himself, but as Hermiston began to prepare for its OSAA farewell tour, James wanted to help his team win a state championship.
“It was brought up (a lot), if not everyday,” James said. “You have that in the back of your mind kind of, but it wasn’t solely that. You want to win a state championship every year, but the guys seeing it as freshmen in 2014, and seeing the look on those guys’ faces and seeing the town and how excited everyone got, they really wanted that.” James’ junior season had a rocky start as a passer and he and the Bulldogs relied more on his legs for the first three games. He threw four interceptions Week 1 against Union and completed just 16 of a combined 45 pass attempts over the next two games against Lewiston and Mountain View. In that same span, James ran for at least 120 yards and a touchdown in each game.
“The first game was tough,” James said. “Union was a tough opponent. We knew that coming in. They shut down our run game and it had us wondering in the first couple of weeks, even in Mountain View they shut us down big time, too. It was kind of a ‘Geez, where do we go from here if we can’t run the ball?’”
But immediately following the tough loss to Mountain View, things started to click for James and the Bulldogs. They put together a beatdown of Summit in Bend, giving Summit its first league loss since 2014. James remembers seeing how the Bulldogs came together against the powerhouse Storm team on the road in a raucous environment. He knew right then that 2017 could be a special season.
“I don’t know if it was homecoming night but they (Summit) had a big student section and were brought in by police (escort) and you’re like ‘This town’s ready to play’,” James recalled. “And then we go in and we’re scoring and stopping them and we wondered ‘If we play together how are we going to be stopped?’ And that led to another win, and another win and after we started winning it was expected.”
The Bulldogs went on to win six straight games to close out the regular season, including a blowout win in the final rivalry game against Pendleton, helping Hermiston finish second in the tough 5A Special District 1 and earn the No. 3 seed in the 5A state playoffs.
In those playoffs, James took his game to an even higher level. He threw for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns with 268 rushing yards and three scores in four games. He made big play after big play when the Bulldogs needed it, with clutch throws to seniors Dayshawn Neal and Joe Gutierrez and using his legs to pick up first downs.
But a favorite moment was taking the final knee to run the last seconds off the clock, officially clinching the state championship.
“When I took that last knee, there’s really no words for it, you really can’t describe it,” James said with a grin. “The look on the coaches’ faces, seeing everyone running and jumping, you can’t get that moment taken from you.”
Now James will enjoy basketball and baseball before getting back to work for his senior season on the gridiron. He wants to help Hermiston win back-to-back state championships and bring the first WIAA title to the school. But he knows it will be a challenge.
James’ will have a new supporting cast next season as Hermiston’s top three receivers, top two running backs and four starting offensive linemen graduate.
“We started workouts two weeks ago, right after (the title game) and there’s definitely guys with some talent,” James said. “By the time next season starts there will be some hungry guys out there. I’m excited to see what we can do, because there are some guys that have been putting in work since freshman year that haven’t been noticed yet and it’s their time to get noticed and I think we’ll have a good pack.”
And James says he’ll be ready to show Bulldog fans an even better version of himself as a senior, and make the peoples’ eyes pop even more.
East Oregonian All-Area Football
Player of the Year — Andrew James, Hermiston, jr.
Quarterback — Andrew James, Hermiston, jr.; Nick Bower, Pendleton, sr.
Running back — Jonathan Hinkle, Hermiston sr.; Coby Dougherty, Heppner, sr.
Wide receiver — Dayshawn Neal, Hermiston, sr.; Shaw Jerome, Pendleton, sr.
Offensive line — Beau Blake, Hermiston, sr.; AJ Fernandez, Hermiston, sr.; Wyatt Steagall, Heppner, sr.; Everett Willard, Pendleton, jr.; Mario Sanchez, Stanfield, so.
Defensive line — Wyatt Steagall, Heppner, sr.; Greg Lee, Pendleton sr.; Keaton Mikami, Hermiston, sr.; Tyler Carter, Heppner, jr.
Linebacker — Trent Durfey, Umatilla, jr.; Jonathan Hinkle, Hermiston, sr.; Kirk Liscom, Pendleton, jr.
Defensive back — Joey Gutierrez, Hermiston, sr.; Dayshawn Neal, Hermiston, sr.; Adrian Renner, Stanfield, sr.; Beau Wolters, Heppner, sr.
Kicker — Uriel Carillo, Stanfield, fr.
Punter — Gabe Umbarger, Pendleton, jr.
Quarterback — Brett Speed, Weston-McEwen, sr.
Running back — Josue Aguilera, Irrigon, jr.; Adrian Renner, Stanfield, sr; Beau Wolters, Heppner, sr.
Wide receiver — Cam Sandford, Pendleton, jr.; Joey Gutierrez, Hermiston, sr.
Offensive line — Tyler Carter, Heppner, jr.; Taylor Arnold, Hermiston, sr.; Weston Phillips, Weston-McEwen, jr.; Spencer Wells, Mac-Hi, sr.; Alex Walls, Irrigon, jr.
Defensive line — Beau Skinner, Pendleton, jr.; Michael Breeding, Mac-Hi, sr.; Morgan Marcum, Echo, sr.; Patton Wright, Weston-McEwen, jr.
Linebacker — Josh Torres, Mac-Hi, sr.; Peter Earl, Hermiston, sr.; Brett Speed, Weston-McEwen, sr.; Gavin Hanna-Robinson, Heppner, jr.
Defensive back — Daniel Vera, Irrigon, sr.; Parker Munck, Weston-McEwen, sr.; Justin Keeney, Stanfield, sr.; Tyler Rohrman, Hermiston, sr.
Quarterback — Devan Craig, Echo, sr.; Mason Hegar, Riverside, sr.
Running back — Shawn Yeager, Pendleton, jr.; Zack Gehrke, Echo, sr.; Justin Keeney, Stanfield, sr.; Dylan Cain, Weston-McEwen, sr.
Wide receiver — Tanner Stephan, Pendleton, sr.; Blake Davis, Pendleton, jr.; Felix Aparicio, Riverside, sr.; Ty Mulder, Echo, sr.
Offensive line — Cetch Kelly, Pendleton, jr.; Jacob Liebe, Hermiston, jr.; Dakota Howard, Heppner, jr.; Jose Huato, Hermiston, sr.; Travis McGee, Pendleton, so.; Rene Sanchez, Stanfield, so.
Defensive line — Brandyn Chaney, Mac-Hi, sr.; Cody Wizener, Hermiston, jr.; Weston Phillips, Weston-McEwen, jr.; Shayne Keltz, Stanfield, sr.
Linebacker — Keith Fleming, Irrigon, jr.; Aiden Patterson, Pendleton, jr.; Jason Rea, Heppner, so.; Makiah Blankenship, Stanfield, sr.; Riley Gorham, Riverside.
Defensive back — Ian Bannister, Pendleton, jr.; Youbani Razon, Hermiston, jr.; Kaden Webb, Umatilla, sr.; Allan Mendoza, Mac-Hi, sr.; Jacob Speed, Weston-McEwen, sr.