HERMISTON — McMinnville’s strength can’t be judged from its one game this season, Hermiston football coach Mark Hodges said. The Grizzlies were pushed into extinction by Jesuit in Week 1, losing by six touchdowns.
But they’re a better team than that because, frankly, Jesuit could do that to any team in the state, Hodges said.
Luckily for the Bulldogs, Jesuit is not the team on their schedule this week. McMinnville is. Hermiston will host its first game of the season Friday at 7 p.m. against a Grizzly team coming off a 63-21 defeat.
McMinnville, a Class 6A foe that went an even 5-5 last season, has the firepower and size to draw the favored line in this matchup even on the road. Running back Spencer Payne is coming off a massive junior season in which he ran for 1,821 yards and 30 touchdowns. His yardage compilation ranked second in the state.
Behind Hermiston’s Bobby Adams.
That factor alone makes Hodges think the Grizzlies will come in a little extra motivated to prove their prowess. Hermiston counters with sophomore Cory Adams, the brother of the graduated Bobby who ran for 170 yards last week in a victory at Putnam.
Keeping tabs on Payne will be crucial to the Hermiston defense’s success. Last week, the Bulldogs didn’t have to deal with Putnam’s top playmaker, receiver Deshawn Stephens, because the player was out for disciplinary reasons. Hermiston took advantage, forcing six turnovers and stealing a 20-14 win. Handling Payne is the main goal on that side of the ball.
On offense, the Dawgs will need to find a way to get around McMinnville’s beasts on the line. The team averages a Grizzly-like 270 pounds up front, led by a couple monsters at defensive tackle. Senior Dominic Kidd (6 foot 3, 290 pounds) and junior Andrew Carr (6-2, 270) will make establishing the run game very difficult.
“They’re going to play real fast, real physical,” Hodges said. “We’ve got to be able to match their energy level first and it may take a little time for us to adjust to their speed.
“We’ve got to be ready to take one on the chin and bounce back. Then if we can kind of survive the whirlwind, I think we can settle in and do well.”
The Bulldogs know what they’re up against in the second game of a crushing preseason schedule that also includes facing Sherwood, the team that lost by a point in the 5A championship last year. Starting with a win against Putnam made that stretch a lot easier to bare, both mentally and in the record books, said Trenton Anteau, a linebacker and defensive end.
“A game like that where everyone says we’re going to lose, we come out with a big confidence booster,” the junior said. “It helps us, but a 6A school’s faster and bigger so we’ve still got to not think that we’re on top just because we won a game.”
Along with the football action, fans will also get a chance to see the newly-approved designs for the Kennison Field renovation project set to begin following the season.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.