Each time the Hermiston Bulldogs scored a touchdown this year or took down an opposing football player in the backfield, the usually cacophony has erupted from the sideline. But certain accomplishments have garnered new celebrations among the Hermiston boys.
“Especially on the field if someone gets a big play, a tackle for loss, everybody’s cheering because we know we’re going to get a dog bone,” said Hermiston’s junior running back Trenten Anteau.
Get a turnover, get a dog bone. Reach the end zone, get a dog bone. Lay the hit of the week on some poor sap, that’s another dog bone.
But the boys have team incentives, too. For something like a running back rumbling for more than 200 yards, the whole offense picks up a new decal. Same goes for stopping the run on defense, or reaching a certain scoring-point plateau.
“We decided this year to add that something little extra special for the guys,” Hermiston head coach Mark Hodges said. “Mainly it’s to make the kids happy. It’s a good motivation and they like it. It makes things fun and that’s kind of what it’s all about anyway.”
Reward stickers have been around in college football for close to 50 years. An endearing tradition, the idea was born in Ohio in the mid 1960s. Conflicting camps believe that Ernie Biggs, a trainer at Ohio State University, formed the idea while others point to Miami University (Ohio) for the tradition’s berth a few years earlier.
The stickers were meant to emulate similar marks fighter pilots of the era adorned their planes with following successful missions or kills.
While dozens of teams in the NCAA ranks continue the custom to this day in various forms— such as Ohio State’s Buckeye leaf, Florida State’s tomahawk or Georgia’s kindred dog bones — helmet stickers are far less common at the high school level. A few teams such Hermiston’s preseason opponent Sherwood, last year’s Class 5A runner-up and the top-ranked team based on OSAA’s RPI rankings this year, have also begun plotting achievements this way.
Through seven games this season, the dog bones have begun collecting in droves on a few Hermiston helmets. Players like Anteau, aided by his 13 touchdowns and three consecutive 100-yard rushing games, have become massive collectors. His 37 decals — those accumulated prior to Friday’s clash with Pendleton of course — run in lines from the back of the helmet up to the crest in tight formations, creating a ladder-like appearance.
Building the ladders is a lot easier for Bulldogs that play both sides of the ball, offense and defense. That’s twice the opportunity to pick up bones, said Thomas Hamblin, Hermiston’s senior linebacker and tailback.
“When we find somebody who just plays offense like Jerod (Munsterman), he only has like 20 or something like that,” Hamblin said of the team’s senior tight end. “So we make fun of him because he doesn’t play both ways. It’s a little more difficult for him.”
Hamblin, Hermiston’s leading sacker, is getting up there with 31 dog bones.
The bones have created in-house contests among the Bulldogs, Anteau said.
“It’s become kind of a competitive thing,” he said. “Some people are like, ‘I’ve got more than you,’ so everyone tries harder and figures out ways to get more.”
But one way to earn a bone, which every player on Hermiston’s roster rallies around, is through winning. With a ‘W’, each boy adds a sticker to his collection.
Now that’s just the motivation coach Hodges was looking for.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.