HERMISTON — It was standing room only on the Heppner side of Kennison Field on Saturday for the Class 2A state championship game against top-ranked Kennedy.
The small farming community loves its football team, and the Mustangs feed off of its support, which included alumni, family and neighbors at the title game.
The Mustangs needed every ounce of love from their fans Saturday to beat Kennedy 12-7 and bring a third state title to the school.
“I have a community that wraps their arms around the kids,” Heppner coach Greg Grant said. “It makes it that much better. That’s why I’m here. I never really looked anywhere else, or found anything better.”
The Mustangs also won state titles in 1992 and 2015. They have been to the playoffs 38 times since their first trip in 1947, and have been every year since 1997.
In 30 years under Grant, the Mustangs have never had a losing season, which keeps the fans coming back for more.
“The finality of high school football for small town kids, is now all they do is talk about it,” Grant said. “They will have a sweet memory. They never let each other down, and they worked their tails offs.”
The victory wasn’t cemented until the final minute of the game when the Mustangs recovered an onside kick.
While there is no trip to Disneyland for winning the state title, Grant is certain the community will make the team feel special.
“There will be a lot of cool moments, T-shirts and hats,” Grant said. “What they (the players) have is their relationship with each other. Whether they win or lose, our motto is ‘Don’t let each other down.’”
Heppner quarterback Jayden Wilson, who scored two touchdowns, said winning a title is a dream come true.
“I’ve been working for this since the eighth grade,” he said. “This is crazy.”