HERMISTON - Penalties haunted the Hermiston Bulldogs in their season-opening loss to West Valley last week.
The Bulldogs will have to correct those mistakes this week as Hermiston clashes with the defending Intermountain Conference champion Bend Lava Bears at 7 p.m. Friday at Bend.
"Even though Hermiston lost, after watching them on tape, I feel they are the best team in the IMC," said 17-year head coach Craig Walker. "They have unbelievable team speed and are well prepared."
Bend ran the table in the IMC last year with a 7-0 mark and marched into the Class 4A quarterfinals last season before bowing out of the state playoffs. While Hermiston battled with West Valley last week, Bend will open its season with Hermiston.
"We have a lot of young, new faces and it will be a matter of filling holes," Walker said.
The IMC's top rusher, Matt Sieverson, is gone and the Lava Bears are turning to running back David Hinchman.
"David is a little different runner than Matt, in that he is a power runner," Walker said.
Senior quarterback Scott Hammand will lead the Lava Bear offense, taking over for graduated Ben Ewing, who was an IMC honorable mention quarterback.
Hermiston is led by a trio of IMC honorable mention running backs in Eric Lindley, Justin Ramirez and Joe Mendenhall.
"Hermiston has three running backs that give them attitude," Walker said. "They bring it and get after it."
Last season, Bend edged Hermiston 36-35 in a game that Hermiston trailed 21-0 at halftime.