HERMISTON - The Hermiston Bulldogs would not be denied Friday in their Intermountain Conference football game against Hood River Valley.
The Bulldogs (2-0 IMC, 2-1) erased a 21-6 first-half deficit Friday, capped by an Adrian Velsaquez 17-yard field goal with 7.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter for a 24-21 victory.
"My coach told me to keep my composure," said Velsaquez, who missed an extra point in the first quarter. "I wanted the kick to end the game and erase that feeling I had after my miss."
Velsaquez struggled some at Bend last week, according to Hermiston head coach David Lewis, but said he had no doubts about sending Velsaquez into the game for a field goal attempt.
"I've got a lot of confidence in him," said Lewis of Velsaquez. "He was real down last week, but I wasn't worried. I'm proud of him for punching that one through."
The Bulldogs now have victories over last year's defending champion Bend Lava Bears and the Eagles, who finished second last year with just one loss.
"We played a sloppy game of football, and we need to clean some things up," Lewis said. "This is a huge win, and if we can clean some things up, we'll be OK."
The Eagles used a punishing ground attack in the first half, gaining 294 yards, but the Bulldogs limited Hood River Valley to 66 yards in the second half.
"We made an attitude adjustment," said Lewis of his team's halftime discussion. "We told them that 'we're not going to let them smack us in the mouth anymore.' "
Hermiston turned the momentum of the game by stopping a Hood River Valley 17-play drive with three defensive stops on the 3-yard line to end the first half.
"That defensive stop got us going," said Hermiston linebacker Eric Lindley. "We started bringing five from the outside, and we did the job."
Both teams played scoreless in the third quarter, but Hermiston's Joe Mendenhall capped a Bulldog eight-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Mendenhall ran in the two-point conversion, cutting the Eagles' lead to 21-14 with 8:04 left in the quarter.
"It felt awesome to get in the end zone," said Mendenhall, who led the Bulldogs with 76 yards rushing on 15 carries. "We turned things around, and this feels great to get this win."
Justin Ramirez recovered a Hood River Valley fumble on the Eagles' ensuing possession and Hermiston quarterback Mark Pedro capped a 55-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:16 left. Velsaquez tied the game at 21 with an extra-point kick.
Trevor Hoofard recovered another Hood River Valley fumble on the Eagles' next possession on the Hood River Valley 30-yard line to set up the winning drive that was keyed by a Pedro pass to Paul Carollo for 31 yards.
"Our front line was dominating in the second half," said Ramirez, who fumbled in the third quarter after a 14-yard run. "This was a wild night for me, but I was glad to get in on some plays and help my teammates."
Luke McCarthy opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter after he blocked a Hermiston punt with 9:40 left in the quarter. Obed Bello found the end zone with a 10-yard run three minutes later for a 14-0 Eagles lead.
"(Hood River Valley) came out and smacked us in the mouth," Lewis said. "They dominated us in the first half."
Lindley caught a 14-yard pass from Pedro with 3:59 left in the first quarter, but Hood River Valley responded in the second quarter with Bello plunging into the end zone from 5 yards out.
"We told the guys 'this is our house and we're not gonna let them push us around in our house,' " Lewis said. "Every single one of the players we put in the game worked their tails off and played football in the second half."