Hermiston High School and Eastern Oregon can be justifiably proud of the Bulldogs' football season.
That pride isn't just based on the team's 7-4 record or the fact the team under first-year Coach Mark Hodges advanced to the quarterfinals of Oregon's Class 5A state playoffs.
No, the real pride is the class shown by the team - especially seniors Luis Ortiz and Cody Humphrey - in the way they handled their season-ending loss.
Fans may not want to remember, but the Bulldogs lost a heartbreaking 30-27 decision to Glencoe in Hillsboro just before Thanksgiving. A controversial call (which turned into a non-call when officials picked up a penalty flag late in the game) changed the outcome and ended Hermiston's season.
Most players would whine and complain endlessly. But not the senior leaders for the Bulldogs.
" ... That's just the way it turns out," Ortiz told East Oregonian sports reporter Justin Chartrey after the loss. "One call and the game turned out different - not much you could do about that. We left it all out on the field."
Humphrey showed equal class in his comments to Chartrey.
" ... They (Glencoe) didn't give up," Humphrey said of the victorious Tide. "They kept playing and came back and got us."
Then the defensive lineman praised his teammates.
"This team has a lot of heart. We tried but couldn't get it. You can't win them all," he said.
It takes a lot for a team to advance to the state quarterfinals in any sport - good coaching, great athletes, teamwork, fan support and lots of hard work. Hermiston's Bulldogs had all of those ingredients, but, more importantly, it had young men who realized the special gift they experienced - even in a heartbreaking defeat.
It is best expressed by Mr. Ortiz:
"This was an experience of a lifetime," he said. "I'm never going to forget it. You never want to stop playing ... but someone has to lose, someone wins and unfortunately we lost."
That's a championship attitude.