Bulldogs win ugly

Hermiston's Tyler Green runs the ball for a touchdown during Friday's game against Crook County. <br> Staff photo by Sarah Britain

HERMISTON - A bank of lights went out on the west end of Kennison Field at halftime Friday, and Hermiston football coach Mark Hodges said they should have just shut them all off.

That's how ugly he said Hermiston's 35-20 win over Crook County was.

But digging through the mess of rain, darkness, turnovers and penalties, the Bulldogs (3-2, 3-0 Intermountain Conference) did manage enough big plays to find a victory, and at the end of the day Hodges agreed to take it.

"You're going to have ugly wins," he said. "Every team's got to go through it, and when you play your absolute worst and still win you're in OK shape."

Though the scoreboard looked familiar for Hermiston in the first half, with a score of 28-0, many players didn't feel it was a typical performance.

"We didn't execute and we didn't pay attention to the details," senior Nate Barak said. "We know what our standards are but we didn't meet them. We're all pretty mad right now."

The Bulldogs, who have established themselves as one of the top passing teams in the state, stuck mainly to the ground in the first half and rushed for 220 yards.

Senior Tyler Green found the most success running the ball, gaining 166 yards and going in for three touchdowns.

Hodges said the decision to run the ball came from what the Crook County defense was giving. Green broke a 39-yard run the first time he touched the ball and a 63-yard dash on the first play of the next possession.

Junior quarterback Faafiula Ena also ran for a TD in the first half, busting the goal line on a fourth-and-goal from the one yard-line.

But as the scores piled up on the offensive side, so did the flags on the defensive side. The Bulldogs wound up giving the Cowboys 50 penalty yards in the first half, far more than the 12 yards Crook County gained on the ground in the frames.

"Every time we'd start to build momentum, we'd get a penalty or we'd lose the ball," Hodges said. "We didn't play up to our standards."

The Bulldogs finished with 11 penalties and three turnovers - one fumble and two interceptions. Coach Hodges also picked up his first delay of game penalty in four years, which he felt was a good indication of how the officials called the contest.

The Bulldogs had the chance to put the game away completely in the first minutes of the third quarter, as Ben Wood returned the opening the kickoff for a 75-yard touchdown and the Bulldogs recovered their following kickoff on the Cowboy 12-yard-line. But Ena threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage and Crook County turned it into its first score of the game after a six-minute drive.

Crook County (2-4, 0-2 IMC) has made a name for itself as a second-half team and didn't disappoint in Hermiston, scoring twice more down the stretch to cut the game to Hermiston's narrowest win in Intermountain Conference play.

First-year Crook County coach Woody Bennett said his team has worked hard developing that mentality, and when the officials approached him about calling the game due to the missing lights he said it didn't even feel like an option.

"We drove all the way up here, we're going to play a football game," he said, adding his team played in a half-darkened field four weeks ago at home.

Bennett was especially proud of his team's second-half effort as senior quarterback Zach Lea suffered a hand injury and wasn't able to throw at all.

Though the Bulldogs hit the locker room uninspired by their own performance, they were at least glad to see No. 4-ranked Mountain View fall to unranked Summit. The loss means Hermiston has a chance to make a big step in the Intermountain Conference standings Thursday, when it travels to face the Cougars in Bend.

The biggest thing for the Bulldogs, however, is to get their own game together after a lackluster performance.

"We definitely should be able to get their attention now," Hodges said. "We saw what happens when we don't concentrate on the little details."

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