Bulldogs find right attitude in scrimmage

Tyler Green runs the ball Friday during a Hermiston High School scrimmage.<br> Staff photo by Sarah Britain

HERMISTON - The play on the field at Hermiston's Purple and Gold football scrimmage game, according to coach Mark Hodges, was good.

Progress was evident, the playbook was executed with decent consistency, and the players were upbeat.

But of all the things he saw during the hour and a half, none were as exciting as the team's meeting after putting away the equipment.

Without the direction of any coaches, the players gathered up by the equipment shed for a final team chant of "Bulldogs" before breaking for the locker room.

"It's that kind of thing," he said, watching from the opposite sideline. "They're doing that all on their own."

Senior Dorian Williams said the impromptu chant came from the sheer joy the team feels to be playing football.

"We're excited," he said. "We've embraced the system, and it's a lot to get down. We were all shaky at first, but we're getting it and we're excited."

The scrimmage put the players in a variety of 15-minute drills, with players switching sides of the line and working out multiple positions.

Hodges said it's clear the team has some work to do before next Friday's game against Walla Walla, especially getting off the snap count and making strong tackles on defense.

The squad will gather to watch the video today, and Hodges said the players will likely find plenty of areas for self-critique.

"They really didn't tackle very well," he said, admitting it may have been because they were lining up against teammates. "They're fighting for jobs tonight, and they should be ready to hit."

Several quarterbacks spent time under center, with Junior Ena coming in only late in the evening after a few stints at linebacker.

Williams, slated primarily as a receiver, took several snaps over the evening after taking up the position just last week.

"They told me, 'hey, come over with the quarterbacks,' " Williams recalled, "and I said, 'for what?'. But I just ran with it. It's more complicated than it seems, but once I got the steps down I did a lot better."

Williams will continue his role as receiver, the position he's played all through high school, but said he's willing to step in at quarterback if the need arises.

"After today I feel a lot better about it," he said.

The special teams got a workout mid-way through the evening set, practicing the punt return.

Tyler Green took the first kick around the 30 yard line and blasted his way down the right sideline and into the endzone. Steve Martinez did the same thing on the next kick, though it was called back for a block in the back.

"Coach Hodges said to treat everything like a game," Green said. "We've worked a lot on our speed and I think we'll be fast this year."

Green and Martinez also took carries from the backfield, and Green said he thinks the more open offense will give the running game plenty of room to flourish.

The evening closed with the field goal unit kicking from varied distance, and Luis Ortiz got a cheer from both the crowd and his teammates for nailing a 43-yard try.

Hodges said he's only coached one other kicker with range like Ortiz, during his tenure at North Medford.

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