HERMISTON - The Hermiston Bulldogs stumbled out of the gates to a 13-0 deficit, but won their first ever playoff game with a 49-20 win over Centennial in the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schawb Tires 4A state football playoffs Friday.
The Bulldogs' best season in school history will continue next week at home when Hermiston (10-0) hosts North Medford (9-1) in a second-round game. North Medford held off Churchill 51-38 Friday.
Late in the first quarter, the Centennial Eagles found the end zone on a 3-yard run by Gary Richards, and two minutes later Zack Phillips connected with Nelson Helland for a 74-yard touchdown strike to give Centennial a 13-0 lead.
"We came out flat and they were doing some stuff that caused us some problems," said Hermiston head coach Jerry Williams. "We were not taking care of our responsibilities."
Hermiston would not allow any more Eagle opportunities and John Barnett found a wide-open Tyson Banker for a 43-yard touchdown pass to spark the Bulldogs offense with 11 minutes left in the second quarter.
"We thought we could pass and run both, but we found that our passing game was getting the job done," Williams said.
The Hermiston defense gave up a 40-yard reverse option pass in the middle of the second quarter to its own 15-yard line, but two plays later Banker stuffed an option play that had caused Hermiston problems all game and forced the Eagles to attempt a field goal.
The kick sailed to the right and Hermiston gained all the momentum it needed to start a rout. On Hermiston's next possession, James Williams reeled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Barnett to tie the score and Dean Peters' extra-point kick gave Hermiston the lead for good at 14-13.
"We knew that their defensive backs were not that strong and we tried to take advantage of that," James Williams said. "John threw the ball great. You have to give him a lot of credit."
Barnett connected with Williams again just before the half on a 19-yard touchdown pass and it gave Hermiston the halftime lead at 21-13.
"I thought James played really well and he made some big plays," said coach Williams.
Ruben Ramirez took over in the second half and found the end zone midway through the third quarter with a two-yard touchdown run. A minute later, James Williams picked up an Eagle fumble and returned it for a 34-yard touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 35-13 lead through three quarters.
"We had an overload on that side of the option and the ball bounced off the ground to my hands," said James Williams.
Ramirez and the offensive line had Centennial on its heels and Ramirez scored on runs of 8 yards and 43 yards to insure the game for Hermiston.
"We've always started off slow, but we're working hard in practice to get better," said Hermiston lineman Tyler Hartsteen. "All we try to do as offensive lineman is build walls and when we do our job the running backs can get it done."
Ruben Ramirez finished with 74 yards rushing and Justin Ramirez tallied 79 yards rushing for the Bulldogs. James Williams led the Bulldogs with 62 yards receiving and Barnett threw for 119 yards and rushed for 30.
Not all went well for Hermiston as Banker went down in third quarter with an ankle injury and the status of his injury is yet to be determined.
Sports reporter Joe McHaney can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-236) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.