HERMISTON — There’s no way to sugar-coat it — Hermiston will have its hands full Friday night when Chiawana visits Kennison Field.
The Riverhawks, ranked No. 9 in this week’s Class 4A poll, are 4-0 in Mid-Columbia Conference play, and 4-1 overall after a 21-20 loss to top-ranked Union two weeks ago.
“We can’t focus on what they do,” Bulldogs coach David Faaeteete said. “We have to be focused on us being prepared for Friday night. They play good team football, their defense swarms, and they don’t play selfish. You can see their competitive spirit on film. That’s fun to watch.”
The Bulldogs (1-4 MCC) are coming off a 37-7 win over Southridge last week — a game that saw the defense take over and force turnovers.
“The game plan is to stop the run and rally to the pass,” Faaeteete said. “Offensively, we have to utilize the size of our line. If we show up and do what we did the last game, we have our chances. At the end of the day, everyone has to show up Friday night.” If there is one thing Chiawana coach Steve Graff has noticed about Hermiston, it’s the offensive line, anchored by seniors Chase Bradshaw and Dustyn Coughlin.
“They have guys over 300 pounds,” Graff said.
“They’re as big as me, but taller. Their running back is also a big kid who runs the ball hard, and their quarterback gets the ball out quick. We will have to corral them.”
The Riverhawks have gotten a lot of milage out of senior running back Gabe Schilz, who has run for 591 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“He has done a good job,” Graff said of Schilz. “We like to run and throw. Our offensive line is still a work in progress, and they make some mistakes, but Gabe makes them look good.”
When they turn to the passing game, Chiawana sophomore quarterback JP Zamora has a fleet of speedsters to throw to, including seniors Dion Lee and Cameron Breier, one of the top 400 runners in the state.
It’s on defense where the Riverhawks have done the most damage. They have given up just 48 points in five games — 21 of which were to Union.
Aiden Mason leads the Riverhawks with four interceptions, and they also have a handful of wrestlers who provide grit and a no-quit mentality, including senior linebacker Riley Cissne.
“That’s where we have been pretty good,” Graff said. “We have some good kids with some speed and that helps. Riley runs the show out there.”