The first game of the football season is rarely a make-or-break situation for teams, but it is a great table setter for which direction teams’ seasons will go.
For the Pendleton Buckaroos, they hope that 2015 starts off better than 2014, where mental mistakes and slippery fingers led to a 41-19 defeat at the hands of the Summit Storm.
The Buckaroos once again start off against Summit, a team that Bucks coach Erik Davis believes is one of the best in the state.
Summit put together a 7-3 season in 2014, but was ranked No. 6 in Class 5A in The Oregonian’s preseason media poll.
“They’re an unbelievably well-coached team with a coaching pedigree that’s almost second to none,” said the fourth-year coach.
The most notable name on that coaching pedigree is former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who now spends his time as the Storm’s offensive coordinator. He coaches an offense that averaged more than 36 points per game last season.
Bledsoe’s son, John, is in his second year as Summit’s starting quarterback, and is poised for a big junior season after tossing for 1,862 yards and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014.
The younger Bledsoe’s favorite target is senior tight end, Cameron McCormick. The 6-foot-5 McCormick caught 35 passes for 491 yards and eight touchdowns last season and is committed to play for the University of Oregon in 2016.
“They also have an unbelievable team speed,” said Davis, “which is something we will have to be able to match.”
Friday will be a little unorthodox for both teams, as the game will be played at the Pendleton High School field at 3:30 p.m. since the Round-Up grounds are not yet available.
“It’s always nice to run out underneath those lights with screaming fans, but we’ll still run out on this grass and play a football game,” said Davis. “It won’t be Friday Night Lights, but it’s still varsity football.”
For the Buckaroos, Davis notes that some untested positions will be something to watch out for, as the receiving corps and offensive line feature several new faces.
“Our offensive line is going to have a great test against that Summit defensive front, but if they can give (quarterback) Kai (Quinn) some time, I think we’re going to have success.”
But in the end, it could come down to ball security once again as a big factor in the outcome.
Pendleton had seven turnovers and a plethora of penalty flags that hampered their abilities last season.
“You can’t give a team like Summit extra opportunities like that or it makes it really tough to win the game,” said Davis.
And while the main goal is to start the season off with the win, Davis just wants to see the team fight through all four quarters.
“I don’t want to see a great half of football and then pat themselves on the back and give in at the end,” he said. “Win or lose, it’ll absolutely be a victory if I see the kids give it their all for four quarters.”
Contact Eric Singer at (541) 966-0839 or email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger