Two days before the Pendleton football team was slated to make the drive out to The Dalles for its upcoming game against the Eagle Indians, its defensive unit did its best cross country impersonation.
The players began by trudging up a steep hill above the practice field, running around a power pole and sprinting back to defensive coordinator Fred Phillips.
It was Phillips' most effective way to explain to his players the sense of urgency they need to play with from now until the end of the season.
"Of course running around that pole isn't the most fun thing to do," middle linebacker Jared Standley said. "And it kind of gets you going so you don't have to do it again. But (the coaches) shouldn't have to do that. We should get ourselves ready right off the bat instead of having to get yelled at."
It is all about playing four quarters of smash-mouth football from the Buckaroo defense this week. That's something they have yet to accomplish that feat this season.
In the Bucks' most recent game - a 28-13 win against Crook County - the defense was tough as nails, holding the Cowboys to one first down. But Phillips is still waiting to see a full four-quarter effort, and his worries surfaced again during Wednesday's practice.
"The last 12 plays (of practice) were good," Phillips said. "They ran around, hit people and played hard. They dominated the scout team like they're supposed to, but they came out at the start of practice going half speed, not real intense. Sometimes you have to kick them in the rear to get them going."
Getting his players amped up for their upcoming duel with The Dalles-Wahtonka should not be a concern for Phillips. Each player knows the stakes of each and every Friday night.
"This is pretty important," quarterback Jake Talbot said. "It keeps our hopes of getting a playoff spot alive, especially being one of the top (teams) in the league. This is definitely a game we need to win if we want to be a playoff contender."
The biggest hurdle Pendleton will have to face with the Eagle Indians is their immense size along the front. For both the offense and the defense, the challenge will be to neutralize that size with more speed - something the Bucks struggled with in an earlier loss to Mountain View.
"(The Dalles-Wahtonka) is a little different (than Mountain View)," offensive coordinator Steve Utter said.
"The Dalles is a bit bigger than Mountain View, but Mountain View is quite a bit quicker. We're trying to keep our guys in the right position, hit the right hole and take advantage of some of our quickness as compared to their size."
The Bucks would like to run the ball with the same success they did against Crook County, meaning it will be up to the running backs to hit the hole hard and get good jumps off the ball, said fullback Levin Fox.