Dawgs send demons packing

Staff photo by Sarah Britain<br> Faafiaula Ena receives a high-five Friday following Hermiston's victory over Pendleton.

What better night than Halloween for the Hermiston football team to exorcise some demons.

And, just like in the classic horror movie "The Exorcist", the process wasn't pretty.

It was a messy game, with the Bulldogs losing both confidence and focus in the second quarter, looking to be the better team but unsure if that gave them the right to win.

After all, the Bucks have outright owned the Bulldogs in the past, regardless of which team has had the better season.

So when Hermiston scored on its first possession, that was no surprise. The Faafiaula Ena to Luis Ortiz combination has worked all year.

But when Pendleton picked up the fumble on Hermiston's next drive, turned in a gutsy fourth-down conversion and ultimately tied the game with a touchdown, that wasn't much of a surprise either.

It's the way things have gone for these two teams, separated by just a short stretch of freeway but by miles of tradition.

Senior Tyler Green said things began to unravel in the huddle in the second quarter as the team began doubting itself.

"In the huddle we were fighting and arguing," he said. "That was the biggest change for us, our attitude. In the third quarter we were on our point and coming together as a team. That's what I'll remember from this game."

Hermiston's Mark Hodges, coaching in his first game between the Bulldogs and Bucks, said the turning point for his players was the realization that they could win.

"That was the big thing, for our seniors especially," he said. "They had to get that belief that, hey, we can do this."

The coach said the players questioned themselves through the first half, running into the mental block of history. But he said once they settled in for the final drive of the half, took it one yard and one play at a time, and came up with an enormous touchdown, the realization hit home.

In the second half it was back to business as usual for Hermiston, with three touchdowns in the third quarter to put thoughts of a comeback and upset to rest.

"I do think it took this game to exorcise the demons," he said. "They had to see it happen."

It's yet to been seen the full extent of what the 2008 Bulldogs are capable of, though they earned a head-start into the playoffs with the win.

But one legacy the team can already claim is being one of just five in school history to put down the Bucks to end the season.

And especially for the seniors, who got the first taste of football victory over Pendleton Friday, that's something they can hang on to for a lifetime.

"I'd rather lose my first three years and win my senior year," Green said. "I'd rather win as a senior."

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