PENDLETON — Jake LaCoste’s first run of the game was a 34-yard rumble up the right sideline that was called back by offsetting penalties.

Each of his next 29 rushing attempts counted, though, and the junior Bulldog from West Albany dodged his way through the Pendleton defense for an eye-popping 340 yards and seven touchdowns on Friday afternoon in Pendleton.

“(My blockers) were just amazing,” LaCoste said. “Just stayed their blocks, just kept them, and then I?just had to follow their butts.”

LaCoste’s remarkable statline carried the Bulldogs to a 62-35 win over Pendleton in each team’s season opener.

“We knew coming in that he was as good as we were going to see all year,”?said Bucks first-year head coach Erik Davis. “It was really hard to simulate that kind of speed in practice. He’s a really, really good back and he’s going to have a great year.”

“He was real shifty but we just needed to contain him and do our jobs,”?said Bucks’ starting defensive lineman Tyler Bigot. “We were doing other people’s jobs instead of doing our own.”

Many of LaCoste’s rushes began up the middle running off the right or left guard, but he would quickly bounce outside the tackles and head toward open grass. He had touchdown runs of 75, 65, 36 and 19 yards.

But when the Bucks did keep LaCoste running between the tackles he had just 16 yards on eight attempts.

“It’s just too bad that we couldn’t corral him a little bit more,”?Davis said. “He kind of ran a little wild on us.”

LaCoste’s night overshadowed a great game by Pendleton senior quarterback Connor Johnson, who formed a quick chemistry with young wideouts TJ Hancock and Isaiah Polhamus.

The Pendleton offense kept the Bucks in the game early with a steady stream of passes out of three- and four-wideout formations. Johnson completed 26 of 38 passes for 410 yards and five touchdowns, with four receiver drops.

“It was a close game for a while and we just lost some crucial moments but I?think we got some positives out of it,”?Johnson said. “They’re a great team and we put up 35 points. It should have been more but I?feel pretty good with where we’re at.”

Both Hancock, a sophomore, and Polhamus, a junior, were making their first varsity starts.

Hancock had the longest play of the game when he lined up alone on the right of a formation that had three receivers out left. Hancock got behind his defender for the catch about 30 yards downfield then got a big block from Laramie Boston to spring him for a 76-yard score.

That tied the game at 14-14 with 1:10 to play in the first quarter.

LaCoste answered the Bucks on the Bulldogs’ next play, running 75 yards to paydirt.

The Bulldogs responded to the Bucks every time they scored, often within just just a few minutes or plays, and Pendleton’s inability to come up with the big plays at the right time ultimately cost them, Davis said.

The Bucks had at least six big plays, though, and Polhamus caught a 41-yard touchdown that brought Pendleton within 27-21 with 3:24 to go before halftime.

“I?kind of talked with him like, ‘Hey if they run it like this I?want you to run this route and that’s what he did,’ ” Johnson said.

Polhamus added a 70-yard touchdown on a blown coverage late in the game but by then the score was 55-35 in favor of West Albany with just 8:30 to play.

Polhamus totalled seven receptions for 187 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start. Hancock finished the game with five receptions for 138 yards, and an interception on defense, while senior tight end Jack Ezell had two touchdowns on five catches.

Caleb Ball and Tanner Carey came up with a fumble recovery and interception on the first two West Albany drives in the second half but the Bucks converted those into just seven points — which LaCoste answered with a 65-yard score.

The Bucks didn’t get to shock the world like they had hoped going into the game with West Albany, but definitely did enough to put the defensive coordinators they’ll face on notice.

Next up for the Bucks is a road game at William F. West High in Chehalis, Wash. That will be followed by road games at Milwaukie and La Grande before returning to play at Round-Up Stadium under the lights on Sept. 28.

“We ran into a really good football team right off the bat so now I’ve got to figure out what we can do to get better and now it’s on to W.F. West,” Davis said. “It’s a learning experience. I?keep my chin up and keep grinding because we’ve got a game next Friday.”

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Contact Matt Entrup at mentrup@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0838.

   

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