HEPPNER — You want to be the best, you have to play the best.

Heppner football coach Greg Grant gives his team the opportunity for success every season by finding the toughest nonleague games he can find.

Friday, the Mustangs will host Clatskanie, which was voted the No. 2-ranked team in the Class 3A preseason poll.

“Our kids are excited to play a very, very good team,” Grant said. “They return all of their line and have good skill kids.”

Heppner, which came in at No. 4 in the Class 2A poll, is happy to be facing the Tigers at home.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Grant said. “It’s nice to be in front of the home crowd. It’s something we look forward to.”

Grant believes his team can hang with the Tigers if the Mustangs play their game.

“We want to make sure we don’t lose the game,” Grant said. “We need to hang onto the ball, execute and do the little things. We need to cut down on mistakes.”

Ione/Arlington vs. Powder Valley

It’s a trip to the big town for the Cardinals, who play the Badgers at 4 p.m. at Hermiston’s Kennison Field.

“I think we are ready,” Ione coach JJ Rosenberg said. “We are excited. We have come a long way since last year. It will be cool to see where we are at.”

Rosenberg said one of the things he likes about his team is how physical it is.

“They are a physical bunch of boys,” Rosenberg said. “Not something you come across often. They get after it.”

The Cardinals’ game is the opener of the 8-man extravaganza at Kennison Field. Dufur vs. Adrian/Jordan Valley will follow.

The Rangers have won 33 consecutive games and the past four Class 1A state titles.

“They are two of the higher-ranked teams in the poll,” Rosenberg said. “It will be fun to watch them play.”

Ione will host Dufur in a Big Sky League game Oct. 4.

The rest of the schedule

Echo, which lost its opening game when Harper did not field a team, will host Riverside at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Cougars are a 6-man team, and Riverside a 2A team. They have agreed to play a game of 6-man football.

Friday’s schedule also includes Mac-Hi hosting Madras, Weston-McEwen at Central Linn, Umatilla at Regis, and Pilot Rock will play at Enterprise at 2 p.m.

Thursday’s lone game will feature Stanfield at Irrigon.

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