PENDLETON — A successful regular season campaign tends to equate to an early-round gift when it comes time for postseason play, and the Pendleton Buckaroos (7-2, 3-0 CRC) are the benefactors of a seven-win season slate. In turn, the OSAA has handed the Bucks a play-in game against the one-win Milwaukie Mustangs (1-8, 0-7 NWOL) to start playoff football.
The Portland-based Mustangs will travel across the state to play the Columbia River Conference champions on Friday at 7 p.m. at Round-Up Grounds, a tough task for any team but a near-death sentence for a squad who hasn’t won in the last two months. The Bucks will control the outcome of this game, Pendleton head coach Mitch Sanders said. If they win, the team will have embodied the efficient machine Sanders sees. If they lose, there will be no place to lay the blame other than the Pendleton sideline.
“It’s a great matchup for us because the matchup is about us,” Sanders said. “We’ve just got to go out there and play to our potential and play fast and execute. Then it’ll be a good game for us.
“No disrespect to them. We have to show up and play football. I don’t want to see our team just show up; I want to see them show up and play.”
Milwaukie has put up only 73 points in eight games while the Bucks’ defense ranked tops in their conference during the season.
A win against Milwaukie would boost Pendleton into the Round of 16 in the state playoff. Should that scenario play out, an early season slipup will come back to haunt the Bucks. A 21-14 loss to Ontario in September has clung to the team’s OSAA state-wide ranking like lead. Regardless of the outcome, Friday’s game will be the last played in Pendleton.
“If we take care of business (against Milwaukie), that Ontario game really looms large because we’re going to open the Round of 16 on the road instead of at home,” Sanders said. “That’s painful to think of.”
The Bucks will be at near full strength after some players sat part of last week’s 49-25 victory over Roosevelt.