HEPPNER — When you get to this point in the season, rankings don’t mean a whole lot. It’s just a way to put the chess pieces on the board.
The No. 3 Heppner Mustangs cruised to a 49-0 victory over Bandon in the first round last week, but this week No. 10 Warrenton rolls into town having knocked off No. 6 Sheridan.
“The football rankings are unreliable,” Heppner coach Greg Grant said. “There is too small of a sample to work with. I think we start the year feeling like we would like to be a team that plays in November. When November comes, we want to be a team that improves every day. It matters to them.”
The Mustangs (10-0) will host the Warriors (7-2) at noon Saturday in a Class 2A quarterfinal game at the Morrow County Fairgrounds.
Led by quarterback Jayden Wilson, running back Blake Wolters, and Mason Lehman, who does a little bit of everything, the Mustangs have outscored opponents 436-66. Last week, they forced seven turnovers and scored off five.
“Coach Grant is a legend and he has built a heck of a program over there,” Warrenton coach Ian O’Brien said. “We are facing the Beast of the East.”
The Warriors also have made their fair share of trips to the end zone this season, scoring 400 points.
Quarterback Jake Morrow ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns last week against Sheridan. They also have gotten good production from running back/returner Hordie Bodden, running back Devin Jackson and receiver Austin Little.
“We’ve got a lot of good skill guys, but it starts up front with the big guys — Sam Irwin, Nic Pior, Duane Falls, Mark Warren and Triston Scott,” O’Brien said. “Football is an ultimate team game, you have to have all parts playing well.”
The Warriors also have a weapon in third-year kicker Kenzie Ramsey, who has made good on all but a couple of PATs, and has kicked three field goals — the longest being 32 yards.
“I think she is the best kicker in the state,” O’Brien said. “She is really solid.”
The Mustangs know they can’t overlook the Warriors.
“We need to avoid silly mistakes and penalties, and play sound football,” Grant said. “You can see they (Warrenton) are a team that is ready to go.”
But so are the Mustangs, who would like a shot at the state title.
“That is the ultimate destination,” Grant said. “Every kid hopes for that, and dreams for that. You want to make a memory with your teammates, and you don’t want to let them down. If it ends that way, great. Last year, we weren’t satisfied (first-round loss to eventually champion Kennedy). They won’t be satisfied with anything but their best.”
For the Heppner seniors, this will be their last home game in a community that has not witnessed a losing season in the past 30 years.
“They appreciate the community support,” Grant said of his team. “It’s a special place for playoff football. It’s a big thing in a small place. As a coach, there is no better place to play football.”