HERMISTON - The Hermiston Bulldogs can make a major statement with a victory Friday at 7:30 p.m. when they host the Hood River Valley Eagles during the two teams' Intermountain Conference matchup.
After starting the season slowly with a nonleague loss to West Valley, Wash., the Bulldogs bounced back with an IMC win over Bend last week and can match their season win total of last year with a victory Friday.
"This is a big game for us," said second-year Hermiston coach David Lewis. "I expect this game to be very physical."
Hermiston (1-1 overall) lost several close IMC games last year and will have to deal with the Eagles (1-0) , who used several big plays for a 28-6 victory at Hood River in their opener.
"I think the game will be a defensive battle," said sixth-year Hood River Valley head coach Mitch Sanders. "Each team has several kids that play physical and like to get after it."
Inside linebacker Luke McCarthy (6-2, 230) and Bryan Williams (5-11, 190) had 19 and 18 tackles, respectively, in the Eagles' nonleague win over David Douglas last week.
"Our defense is the strength of our football team," Sanders said. "We have great team speed."
McCarthy and Williams earned all-IMC honors last season and McCarthy has interest from both the University of Oregon and Stanford.
"That McCarthy kid is a very good linebacker," Lewis said. "They appear to have more overall team speed than they did last season."
Justin Krizman, Terry Sanders and Adam Brown provide the Eagles with speed in the secondary and coach Sanders said those three can fly.
"We have a defense where every kid on the field can move," Sanders said. "We have high aspirations this season because of our defense and speed."
The Eagles are coming off back-to-back 8-1 regular seasons, having used an effective running game to punish opponents.
Junior quarterback Tony Guisto will lead the Eagles' double wing offense that will be carried by running backs Justin Krizman, Adam Brown and Dominic Buttaccio. McCarthy lines up as fullback on offense.
"We had five turnovers against David Douglas and we can't afford to do that against Hermiston," Sanders said.
Sanders said defensively his team must be aware of Hermiston's rushing game led by Eric Lindley, Joe Mendenhall and Justin Ramirez.
Hermiston pilled up 339 yards of offense led by 162 yards rushing by Eric Lindley against Bend. However, the Bulldogs did not gain a yard through the air.
"That was the game plan going into Bend, but we would have liked to been a little more successful through the air," Lewis said. "We came together a little as a team last week, but we still have a lot to work on."