HILLSBORO — The 2019 Heppner Mustangs are on the cusp of something special.
In their past three games, all in the playoffs, the Mustangs (12-0) have outscored opponents 136-25 and have forced 15 turnovers.
No team has yet to score more than 20 points on the Heppner defense, and since a season opening 27-20 win over 3A Clatskanie, the Mustangs’ closest game was a 23-point win at Grant Union.
And in another blowout victory, this time 55-18 over No. 7 Knappa in Saturday’s class 2A state semifinals at Hillsboro Stadium, No. 3 Heppner showed every reason why.
“We knew we had to play a perfect game to be in the ball game,” Knappa head coach Aaron Barendse said Saturday. “We didn’t, and they did.”
On Saturday, Heppner turned two first half turnovers into catalysts for the offense.
Mason Lehman’s interception ended Knappa’s opening drive and handed the ball to Jayden Wilson, and the offensive line led the way for junior running back Blake Wolters to rattle off four touchdowns on six consecutive scoring drives.
“We got going on them and our kids kept going on them,” Heppner head coach Greg Grant said. “We could smell that we could enforce our will.”
The Mustangs, averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game, have enforced their will all season and Saturday was no different, as Wolters totaled five touchdowns and the rushing attack went for 325 yards on 6.6 yards per carry.
“They’re the bigger, more physical team,” Barendse said. “And they do it the right way. They stuck to their game plan and they ran it well.”
But what made the Heppner offense deadly was its ability to take advantage of the big plays it opens up down the field for Wilson.
A capable runner in his own right, Wilson and the Mustangs RPO (run-pass option) offense kept Knappa off kilter all day. While he only carried the ball