Mustangs fresh going into semis

Staff photo by E.J. Harris Heppner's Kaden Clark fends off Reedsport's Johnny Chilcote while scrambling in the backfield Saturday in the Mustangs' 52-14 win against the Braves in Heppner.

The Heppner Mustangs should be feeling fresh headed into Saturday’s state semifinal showdown with No. 3 Regis.

After again turning to the backups early in the third quarter of last week’s quarterfinal blowout victory, Heppner’s starting lineup has finished a game just once this season while rolling to an 11-0 record.

Added up the starters’ 2015 season boils down to about 24 quarters — or just 6 games.

So what do the No. 2 Mustangs do to make sure they’re able to answer the bell when a team has them on the ropes in the fourth quarter?

“Mostly it’s mental. You can overcome being tired if you’ve got the right mindset, and I think we do,” said junior lineman Kevin Murray.

Coach Greg Grant said he makes sure the team is working hard each week in practice to make up for the missed live reps as well.

“We just run, we just try to stay in shape,” he said. “I don’t think you get in shape in Friday’s or Saturday’s, you get in shape Monday through Thursday.

“So we’re trying to do the things that we should do. We’re trying to make sure that we’re continuing to run and that we’re pushing ourselves. But nothing really unique.”

Even though the Mustangs have yet to be pushed in the postseason, Grant said he saw enough in the team’s regular season finale win over Weston-McEwen to know they have right endurance level.

That game went into halftime with Heppner leading just 8-0, but the Mustangs controlled the second half and went on to win 20-0.

“I was pleased to see them in the fourth quarter really controlling the game,” Grant said.

The Mustangs are preparing for a similar type of game this week when they face Tri-River Conference champion Regis (8-3) at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

“We’ve been practicing hard all week, getting down and getting ready to play a fourth quarter,” said senior lineman Saul Erickson. “It’s going to be a close game I think, definitely going to be a good game.”

The Mustangs and Rams will kick off at Liberty at noon. The game will be broadcast on Hermiston’s KOHU 1360 AM and streamed live online on the NFHS Network with a subscription.

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Contact Matt Entrup at mentrup@eastoregonian.com or (541) 966-0838.

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