Prep Football: Second season sign in

<p>Hermiston’s Chase Knutz prepares to pass in the Bulldogs’ 49-28 win over Pendleton on Oct. 25 in Pendleton.</p>

HERMISTON — Running the table in the Columbia River Conference was a first-time occurrence.

Doing it in convincing fashion is what has the Bulldogs in a savory postseason position.

For its effort, seventh-ranked Hermiston, which outscored its CRC foes 160-62, earned a bye to the first round of the 5A playoffs and a home game.

The OSAA RPI system did its part for the Bulldogs, but when No. 8 Dallas visits Kennison Field at 7 p.m. Friday night, Hermiston will be looking to care of its end of the deal.

That entails trying to slow down the run-heavy Dragons, the No.4 seed out of the gauntlet Mid-Willamette Conference.

“Those guys run hard,” Hermiston coach Mark Hodges said of Dallas. “Our defense will certainly have its hands full. It’s going to be a fun challenge for us.”

The Bulldogs will be fresh after two weeks of preparation and will need their legs against a team that’s leaned on a by-committee approach in the backfield.

Dallas (7-3) has consistently used five different running backs in its misdirection-based offense, churning out 2,798 yards.

The trio of David Rebischke, Tim Smothers and Cameron Naughton have spearheaded the ground attack.

Rebischke (874 yards on 131 carries) gets the bulk of the work, while Smothers (64 carries, 615 yards) and Naughton (57 carries, 592 yards) have also proved to be a load.

Quarterback Josh Kibbey has completed just 41 passes this season, a tell-tale statistic of the Dragons’ offensive tack.

“We’ve gotten a good look at Dallas,” Hodges said. “They’re going to be a tough test for us. They play hard and are physical up front.”

The three blemishes on Dallas’ record were to worthy adversaries, all of which happened to be in the MWC.

The Dragons were edged 14-7 by second-ranked West Albany and 14-6 by No. 8 Crescent Valley.

Their biggest loss of the season was to No. 6 Silverton, which saw Dallas fall 38-7.

In a 5A play-in game last week, Dallas smacked Rex Putnam 48-7 — the same score Hermiston downed RP in its season opener.

Oh-so-balanced Hermiston is ready for the Dragons, despite the loss of standout running back and defensive back Costa Rodriguez (ankle injury).

The Bulldogs countered with Trenten Anteau in a 48-29 pasting of Pendleton two weeks ago, where the 2012 all-CRC rusher — who injured his ankle in Week 1 — ran for 161 yards.

Junior quarterback Chase Knutz has passed for 2,470 yards and 25 touchdowns, his favorite target being speedster Ramon Contreras (55 catches, 985 yards).

“We have done a great job all season of mixing in the pass with the run,” Hodges said. “The numbers prove that. We are focusing on doing more of the same. We think that is the best way for us to succeed offensively.”

The winner of the Hermiston-Dallas game will take on the victor from No. 15 Summit (5-5) at No. 2 West Albany in the quarterfinals (8-1).

PENDLETON (8-2) at ASHLAND (9-0) — When the Pendleton High football team leaves its campus today at 1 p.m., it won’t be thinking about the 493-mile excursion to southwestern Oregon.

Per second-year coach Erik Davis, the Buckaroos are all too focused on No. 5 Ashland — one of two unscathed teams in the 5A ranks — when they visit the Grizzlies on Friday night at 7 p.m.

“We’re not too worried about the trip,” Davis said. “The kids are prepared and are excited to be playing in the playoffs.”

Pendleton is breaking its jaunt up into two parts, starting with a practice tonight at Western Oregon University before staying in Corvallis.

The Bucks are prepping for a like-minded program that likes to pass often. Ashland runs a spread offense that allows quarterback Daniel White to pick apart opposing defenses.

White has completed 111 of his 182 passes for 1,409 yards and 18 touchdown. He’s thrown just two interceptions all season

When the Grizzlies do go to the ground, Ryne Robitz (78 carries, 466 yards) gets the call. He gets the bulk of those carries when Ashland runs option.

“They’re unbelievably well-coached,” Davis said of Ashland. “They’re not really big, but they have some athletic kids. They are not a team that is going to beat themselves.”

Ashland, which ran the table in Special District 3, has two notable wins against playoff teams in No. 3 Springfield and No. 18 Marist.

Pendleton, the second-place team out of the Columbia River Conference, will be looking to its big gun in senior quarterback Chad McCoy.

McCoy, who completed his last 14 passes in a 50-6 play-in shellacking of Jefferson last week, has tallied 2,838 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.

“Chad is going to have to be on this game,” Davis said. “If we start turning the ball over, it’s going to be a long night.”

REEDSPORT CHARTER (7-2) at HEPPNER (9-0) — Blue Mountain Conference champion Heppner begins its state title bid at 1 p.m. on Saturday when it hosts Reedsport Charter.

Charter, the fourth-place team out Special District 1, faces an ever-balanced squad that’s prided itself as a running team but has shown its passing ability.

Heppner senior Brian Rill has rushed for 1,218 yards and 18 touchdowns

When the Mustangs — ranked third in the 2A classification — go to the air, Kaden Clark has been efficient.

Clark has passed for 1,388 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Heppner’s biggest strength this season has been its defense, which has given up an average of just 5.4 points a contest.

Defensive end J.C. Putman leads Heppner in tackles with 56.

STANFIELD (6-3) at REGIS (9-1) — Stanfield, the No. 4 seed out of the Blue Mountain Conference has a brawny task ahead.

The Tigers’ 1 p.m. Saturday road kickoff at Regis — the No. 2 team in the state — will feature one of the top running backs in the state in Rams running back Jeremiah Grieser.

Grieser has racked up 1,754 yards on 215 carries and 27 rushing touchdowns to his name.

But 14th-ranked Stanfield has a nice running back duo of its own.

Bryce Linker and Thyler Monkus have both amassed 1,000 yards on the season.

WESTON-MCEWEN (5-4) at KNAPPA (6-2) — Weston-McEwen may have four losses to its name, but it’s still the ninth-ranked team in the 2A ranks.

The TigerScots, the No. 3 team out of the Blue Mountain Conference, will test their mettle at eighth-ranked Knappa on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Oregon coast school.

They’ll be hoping their tough non-league schedule and falls against top 2A clubs Heppner and Grant Union pay off in the postseason.

Weston-McEwen fell to 3A power Nyssa and Washington 2B juggernaut Waitsburg-Prescott to open the season.

“We played those games to get better,” Weston-McEwen coach Kenzie Hansell said. “Those games helped us in our league. Our kids love playing football and are getting better every week.”

Knappa, a school in Astoria, was the No. 2 team out of Northwest League.

CONDON/WHEELER (5-3) at LOWELL (9-0) — The Knights didn’t get an ideal draw to open up the 1A 8-man football playoffs.

Condon/Wheeler travels to Special District 5 champion Lowell, who is also the runaway state favorite. Kickoff is 7 p.m. on Friday night.

Lowell has scored over 80 points in three of it games this season and is averaging a whopping 76 points a game.

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