Friday’s game between Hermiston and Pendleton had several compelling storylines: A matchup between cross-county rivals with both teams undefeated in league play and a conference title on the line. And for Hermiston fans, it had a happy ending as the Bulldogs came away with a 49-28 win.
And it was over almost as soon as it began. After taking the opening kickoff, Hermiston struck on the third play of the series when junior quarterback Chase Knutz hit Cole Smith on a 26-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs went up 14-0 on a 10-yard pass to Noah Engelbrecht late in the first quarter. Barely two minutes into the second quarter, Knutz chalked up another touchdown pass, this time to Ethan Snow on a 30-yard play to give the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead over the Bucks at the Round-Up grounds.
A seven-play, 78-yard drive pushed the lead to 28-0 thanks to Trenton Anteau, the first-half workhorse for Hermiston, who scored on a 1-yard plunge. Carrying the ball six times on the drive, Anteau notched a 23-yard run and a 28-yard run – 51 of his 150 first-half yards.
Hermiston capped off its first-half scoring with just 59 seconds left in the half when Knutz threw his fourth touchdown of the game, an 8-yard strike to Engelbrecht to give the Bulldogs a 35-0 lead.
It was supposed to be a matchup between two high-scoring teams as Hermiston entered the game scoring an average of 41 points a game while Pendleton was averaging just under 39 points per game. But it was all Hermiston – particularly in the first half. The Bulldogs had 15 first downs in the first two quarters, while Pendleton was limited to just five. Hermiston held the Bucks to just 14 yards rushing on 11 carries in the half.
The second half started just as the first half did – with Hermiston scoring early on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Knutz to Snow to put the Bulldogs up 42-0.
Pendleton finally got on the board on an impressive 12-play, 69-yard drive that culminated on a 9-yard pass from Chad McCoy to Isaiah Polhamus. A bad decision by Hermiston led to a quick score by the Bucks. Facing a fourth down at the Hermiston 6 yard line, Ramon Contreras, in his own end zone, attempted a fake punt, but was stopped at the 2. Three plays later, Pendleton scored on a short pass from McCoy to Laramie Boston to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 42-13.
Hermiston came right back with an 8-play drive in which Cory Adams carried the ball six times, including the 4-yard touchdown to make it 49-13.
Pendleton wasn’t giving up. Starting at their own 13, the Bucks marched 87 yards and scored on a 34-yard touchdown pass from McCoy to T.J. Hancock. The final score of the game came on a short touchdown run for Pendleton.
Field position was key for Hermiston in the first half. They started drives on their own 45, 43 42, 47 and 43 yard line, while Pendleton started their drives on their own 26, 9, 17, 30, 12 and 16 yard line.
Hermiston entered the game without one of its big cogs when senior Costa Rodriguez broke his ankle on Tuesday during practice. Rodriguez had been a stand-out defender at the cornerback position all season, as well as gaining big yards on the ground. But the Bulldogs ate up the Pendleton defense with its running game even without Rodriguez. Anteau ran the ball 16 times for 161 yards and a touchdown and Adams carried it 21 times for 133 yards and a touchdown, most of those yards coming in the second half. Knutz finished with five touchdown passes.
Hermiston is now 9-8 against Pendleton since 1997. The Bulldogs, champions of the CRC, improve to 6-3 overall and 3-0 in the conference. Pendleton falls to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the CRC.