HERMISTON — Powder Valley laid claim to neutral ground Friday afternoon as they powered through Ione/Arlington for a 48-12 victory in a Hermiston-hosted 1A football contest to open the season.
The Badgers took the opening minutes to find their footing as Reece Dixon threw two incomplete passes, but when the new-season jitters left the team soon after, there was no stopping them.
“We started executing very well,” said Dixon, a 5-foot, 9-inch, 150-pound sophomore. “We’ve worked really hard to get to where we are. After today, we feel we can make it to a state play-in game, if not further.”
Dixon got the Badgers going with a pass to senior running back Dominick Grende not six minutes into play in the first quarter. Grende carried the ball into the end zone to put his team on the board.
“We have two of the best receivers in the league, if not the two best receivers,” Dixon said. “We also have two of the best running backs. They’ll take us far.”
Dixon would follow the scoring pass with another just two minutes later, hurling for 23 yards at the 4:13 mark. The ensuing conversion put the Badgers up 14-0 over the Cardinals.
In an attempt to put Ione on the board, senior running back JR Roque rushed the ball for 35 yards, but the Badgers’ rock-solid defense stopped the charge short.
“We just didn’t play very well,” Ione head coach JJ Rosenberg said. “It’s our first game of the year. We still have some butterflies. There are still some learning curves to overcome, but we’ll get there.”
Powder Valley was sure to stay in charge as junior running back Ethan Stephens caught a pass from Dixon and drove it into the end zone for a 20-0 advantage just 37 seconds into the second quarter.
The Cardinals quickly took to the air in an effort to avoid the Badgers’ defensive line. Starting quarterback Hunter Padberg sent the ball flying 37 yards to sophomore wide receiver Colt Parker, who ran in Ione’s first touchdown at 9:08.
The Badgers found trouble responding as Grende gained 5 yards on their next possession, but lost 10 yards on penalties during their next two plays. Dixon took charge and carried the ball in at 7:04 for a 26-6 lead, steering the Badgers back on track.
“Ione is a big team,” Dixon said. “They play classy football. It’s always nice to have a game like that, especially after such a long bus ride to get here.”
The Cardinals followed with a rushing touchdown from Roque and continued to keep Powder Valley at bay on the opposite end of the Badgers’ goal. They swiftly regained possession, but not before Roque was walked off the field with a leg injury. The Badgers ran in another touchdown and conversion for a 34-12 lead at the half.
Padberg also suffered a strained muscle in his neck, keeping him out of play in the second half. Parker was dispatched to take over quarterback duties.
The Badgers emerged from the locker room to knock down another touchdown at the hands of Dixon, who threw for his third score of the game. It would be the only touchdown on either side of the third quarter.
Badgers sophomore tight end Kayden Krieger barreled through Ione’s defense and broke into the end zone to cap off Powder Valley’s scoring at 10:26 in the final quarter.
Parker answered back with a 26-yard carry to the 3-yard line, scoring on the next play. Still, the 30-point deficit was too vast to overcome.
“It took a while for us to get fired up,” Parker said. “But we got pumped up and going. Our running game was really strong today. Our running backs are amazing.”
The Powder Valley victory marked head coach Josh Cobb’s first-ever high school game at the helm.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “We had a pretty balanced attack and capitalized on our speed today. I’m really happy.”
The Cardinals (0-1) play Washington-based Entiat in Grandview on Monday, Sept. 16. The Badgers (1-0) return home to host Wallowa on Friday.