HERMISTON - The Hermiston Bulldogs fell 22-10 to a tough West Valley (Yakima, Wash.) High School team in Hermiston's season opener Friday night. Penalties crippled the Bulldogs repeatedly and slowed whatever momentum they gathered.
West Valley, ranked No. 15 in Washington, played tough on offense and defense. Two West Valley running backs, Joel Wolfard and Ryan Petty, ran for more than 60 yards apiece. Running back Brandon Sears caught three passes for 90 yards.
"We felt pretty good about ourselves," said Taylor Tannasse, a West Valley running back.
The Rams' defensive line kept Hermiston on its heels most of the game. Hermiston also suffered 15 penalties for 137 yards.
"Penalties hurt us big-time," Hermiston coach David Lewis said. "We shot ourselves in the foot with stupid mistakes."
Some close calls also went against Hermiston, including a second-quarter pass interference penalty near the West Valley end zone. Lewis said the call hurt, but credited West Valley for playing a solid game.
"We want to play the best competition out there," Lewis said. "That's probably one of the best offensive lines we'll see all summer."
On the bright side, Hermiston's kicking game "proved an effective weapon," Lewis said. Defensive back and kicker Juan Rodriguez impressed with a solid performance, including a key pass deflection and an 18-yard catch.
The second half was delayed when one of the field's four light towers failed, leaving the gridiron in partial darkness. The lights were restored shortly after the start of second-half play.
Lewis said the contest was a good opportunity for Hermiston to play a solid team and learn from its mistakes.
"There are some things that need shoring up and taking care of," he said. "We'll be OK."
A player echoed the sentiment.
"We're out here to learn and figure out how it's going to go," senior Andrew Pittam said.