Hermiston will make its first Mid-Columbia Conference road trip Friday. Destination is Fran Rish Stadium to take on the Richland Bombers.
In a battle of defending state champions, both teams are but a shadow of their former selves.
Oregon 5A champion Hermiston, which comes in at No. 6 in this week’s Seattle Times 3A poll, lost a lot of key players off of last year’s title team, as did Richland, which won the Washington 4A state title.
“The state championship game was last year,” Richland coach Mike Neidhold said. “Same with Hermiston. That is all behind us.”
Neidhold, who is in his 11th season as head coach, and many more than that as an assistant, said it is the first time the Bombers have played Hermiston in at least the past 30 years.
“We are excited to play them,” he said. “We are after the next big thing, which is a good Hermiston team.”
With new faces at nearly every position, Hermiston coach David Faaeteete does return quarterback Andrew James. He also welcomed back running back Wyatt Noland — who took last year off. Noland ran for 255 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-0 win over Pasco on Opening Night.
But it was a pair of seniors on defense who caught Faaeteete’s eye.
Youbani Razon and Zane Davis each had interceptions last week in the third quarter.
Razon’s pick led to a Noland touchdown four plays later for a 28-0 lead, while Davis’ interception stalled a Pasco drive that had just put together pass plays of 22 and 14 yards.
“Youbani is a returning starter,” Faaeteete said. “He has interceptions in his last five games going back to last year. Zane hasn’t played since his freshman year, but was one of the top guys coming out of that freshman class. It was a great way for them to get back into things. They are good students of the game. They are tough, disciplined and execute their assignments.”
The key, Razon said, is preparation.
“We watch a lot of film,” he said. “We go over everything all week. It’s pretty easy to read most times.”
“I like when you get up and they are looking down,” he said. “I like when I get a pick and we go down and score. It’s nice to be part of the offense.”
Davis doesn’t look to have any rust on his game despite taking two years off. He suffered a concussion as a freshman, but said he missed playing.
“It’s my senior year,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’ve learned a lot from the guys who have been out here the past three years. It feels good to come out and compete with the guys.”
The Bombers (0-1) are coming off an opening-night loss to Chiawana — a game that saw them get shut out 19-0.
“I don’t think we have had a game where we have struggled so mightily,” Neidhold said. “I expect us to be more efficient. We have a couple of guys back who will help us.”
Richland lost starting quarterback Josh Fonner in the first quarter last week after taking a hard hit by Chiawana’s AJ Vongphachanh. The Bombers also were without linemen Aric Davison and Geoffrey Robinson, but they will be on the field Friday.
“We will be better than we were last Friday,” Neidhold said. “We are anxious to see what Hermiston can do. I suspect they will come in and be sky high to play us. They will want to introduce themselves to the MCC and raise some hell with us.”