PENDLETON — The Pendleton Buckaroos walked off the football field on Sept. 15 disappointed and frustrated. Just a few little mistakes kept the Bucks from an upset and possible season-changing win over the Summit Storm and turned it into a 20-19 Storm victory.
However, the game was a valuable lesson to the Buckaroos (1-2, 0-1 Special District 1) and taught the team a key quality about itself.
“We’re one of those teams where we’re going to work our hardest to outwork any other team in this league and I think that game showed it,” Pendleton receiver Cam Sandford said at practice on Wednesday. “We just had a few lapses that we just need to clean up now and we’ll be good.”
But the Bucks have put the Storm behind them and are ready for their next opponent — the Ridgeview Ravens. Ridgeview comes to Pendleton on Friday searching for its first win of the season as the Ravens are in the midst of their second consecutive less-than-stellar season. The Ravens went 1-8 last year and this year have started 0-3 after most recently falling to Hood River Valley 42-14 in the Special District 1 opener last week.
Ridgeview has been outscored 118-47 in its three games this season, but played tough against the Buckaroos in last season’s meeting as Pendleton had to rally in the second half to salvage a 29-25 victory on the road in Bend. Pendleton coach Erik Davis realized the potential for a trap game this week, with the winless Ravens hungry for a victory and his Bucks are feeling confident after a near-upset. A sluggish practice on Tuesday prompted a conversation about that exact topic.
“We had a long conversation yesterday after practice because I got the same feeling about it,” Davis said on Wednesday. “We talk a lot about you can’t play down to a level of perception. You can perceive an 0-3 team as a bad team, but they took us to the wire and we had to come back and beat them last year.
“And we’re a 1-2 team and in no position to think we’re not underdogs in each game and we’re preparing like that. We had a fantastic practice today and that told me they listen and tells me that this team is ready to go.”
Offensively, Ridgeview presents a much different challenge than what the Buckaroos faced against the Storm. The Ravens are a run-heavy team that comes at its opponents with a lot of misdirection, motions, and jet sweeps to pick up yards and try to eat up the clock. It puts pressure on Pendleton’s defensive ends and outside linebackers to get containment on the outside and force the ball carriers inside to the heart of Pendleton’s defense.
The Buckaroos faced a similar style two weeks ago against Putnam, which they had great success against. Junior linebacker Willie Camp says that the prior game experience will be a big help for the Buckaroos come game time.
“Having that experience against Putnam will definitely help us for sure,” he said. “They run the ball more, downhill, so we just have to do our job and I think we’ll win the game.”
Davis added that Pendleton’s defensive game plan will to try and neutralize their run game.
“We want to force them to throw to beat us,” he said. “If we can do that and minimize the majority of their run game, then that puts us at an advantage.”
On offense, Pendleton hopes to regain a balanced attack that led to its success and victory in Week 2 where the Bucks ran for more than 108 yards and passed for 199 yards. Against Summit, the Bucks threw for 315 yards with quarterback Nick Bower and ran for just 93 as Summit’s strong front seven won the battle in the trenches.
If Pendleton can find that balance and put Bower in better passing situations to distribute the ball to its plethora of receivers, the Buckaroos will be in good shape. But Davis believes the key to the game will come down to how the Buckaroos start out of the gates.
“We have to start fast,” Davis said. “The biggest thing is if you get in a hole with a team like (Ridgeview) and they can eat the clock up pretty quick, so we want to get the football in the end zone early and often. And we need to keep the defense off the field as much as possible, establish a run game and try to move the chains, eat up some clock and then let Nick (Bower) get the ball to our athletes I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
Kick off is set for 7 p.m. at the Pendleton High School athletic field.
Contact Eric at email@example.com or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.