For the second time in four years, the Hermiston Bulldogs will be playing for football state championship.
The trip to next Saturday’s title comes courtesy of Hermiston’s 35-27 win over the No. 2 Wilsonville Wildcats in Hillsboro. The No. 3 Bulldogs won their ninth straight game by turning back the Wildcats and punched their ticket to the Oregon 5A championship game against Churchill.
Hermiston scored first Saturday night on a 7-yard run by standout running back Jonathan Hinkle following an interception by Tyler Rohrman. Hinkle’s score was set up by a one-handed catch by Jordan Ramirez that gave the Bulldogs a first-and-10 at the Wilsonville 12 yard line.
A muffed extra point attempt resulted in a 2-point conversion to give Hermiston the early 8-0 lead.
Hermiston took advantage of another Wilsonville turnover when on the last play of the first quarter, Cody Wizener recovered a fumble for Hermiston, giving the Bulldogs the ball on their own 40. Quarterback Andrew James connected with Dayshawn Neal on a 39-yard pass, followed by a 16-yard run by James that took the ball to the Wilsonville 5. Hinkle scored his second touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run to give Hermiston a 15-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Just minutes later, Hermiston scored again, this time on a 45-yard run by Peter Earl that put Hermiston up 22-0. Those 22 point were more than Wilsonville had given up since the first game of the year when they lost to South Medford, 35-7.
The Bulldogs threatened again late in the second quarter, driving deep into Wilsonville territory before the Wildcats recovered a fumble on their own 20. With just 21 seconds left in the half, Wilsonville quarterback Nathan Overholt found Jonah Gomez in the end zone to cut Hermiston’s lead to 22-7 at the break.
The Wildcats kept the momentum going into the third quarter and completed a 72-yard drive to open the quarter that culminated with a 12-yard touchdown run by Overholt to cut Hermiston’s lead to 22-14.
The Bulldogs were resilient, however, and wasted no time putting more points on the board. Starting at their own 25, Hermiston made up the 75 yards on just two plays – a 67-yard run by Hinkle that set up an 8-yard rushing score by James.
Trailing 29-14 in the fourth quarter, Wilsonville again cut into the lead when Cooper Mootz scampered in from the 5 with a little over 8 minutes left in the game.
Then came the gut punch to Wilsonville. Starting at their own 10 yard line, Hermiston methodically moved the ball down the field, gaining valuable yards and killing precious minutes off the clock. Facing a fourth and goal at the 4, Hermiston’s Keaton Mikami scored with just 2:16 left in the game to push Hermiston’s lead to 35-20.
A quick score by Wilsonville cut the Hermiston lead to 35-27, but Hermiston was able to run out the clock to secure their spot in the title game.
The Bulldogs will now face the top-seeded Churchill Lancers who went undefeated on the season and punched their ticket to the championship game with a 35-28 win over Mountain View Saturday night.
Saturday’s victory over Wilsonville improved Hermiston’s record to 10-2.