The Hermiston Bulldogs gave Kennison Field a memorable sendoff Friday night in the football team’s Class 5A play-in game with Sandy.
The Bulldogs hung a golden 50 points on the Pioneers in a 50-0 bludgeoning to keep their season alive and move on to the first round of the state playoffs.
Dawgs’ coach Mark Hodges knew that kind of offensive play from his unit wouldn’t last another three quarters. Still, he wasn’t anticipating the 50-point outburst to come.
“I expected that we would score points and eventually we would start putting the ball in the end zone,” Hodges said. “We had to do a couple little formation adjustments and the two formation adjustments that we made allowed us to open up the run game and get the ball to (receiver Alex) Ortiz.
“And then once it started rolling, it was just rolling.”
After Sandy quarterback Justin Adams threw his second interception of the game a minute into the second quarter, the Bulldogs put their new plan to work. A couple runs for a first down sent Hermiston inside Sandy’s 30-yard line before Ortiz made a diving one-handed catch for 23 yards down to the five.
Running back Trenten Anteau would pound the ball in from there for a 7-0 lead.
While the Bulldogs finally had things figured out, the Pioneers (3-7) were struggling to sustain a drive. Four straight punts followed Hermiston’s opening score.
But the Bulldogs were out of the chutes and loose with the scoreboard. On the next possession, Ortiz reeled in a little screen pass and looked to be caught for minimal gain. Seventy-one yards later and a half dozen broken tackles, the senior receiver was strutting into the end zone.
And the rout was on.
“We started moving the ball like it was nothing,” said Ortiz, who closed out the final home game of his Hermiston career with a five-catch night for 150 yards and two scores.
The bounces were all bounding Hermiston’s way, both offensively and defensively. With the Bulldogs already up 28-0 in the third quarter — Anteau and Cory Adams touchdown runs complementing Ortiz’s pair — Anteau was bowling toward the goal line for another apparent score. But the senior lost the handle on the ball at the one.
With a whole field of players tripping over themselves, the football settled just shy of the goal. Hermiston center Damian Martinez scooped up the lonely ball and toppled across the line for a touchdown, his first in his offensive lineman career.
On defense, Hermiston became the benefactors of some slippery hands by the Pioneers’ receiving corps. Twice high but catchable balls were bumped up into the air like a volleyball set. Bulldog defensive backs were there to swallow the pop-ups.
“We were expecting a lot of deep passes from him,” cornerback Ramon Contreras said of Sandy’s quarterback Adams. “It’s just a reaction. We were at the right place at the right time.”
Contreras, who along with Costa Rodriguez each intercepted two passes, returned one of his for the final score of the game.
Adams, a 6-foot-6 senior with as much athleticism as most of his teammates combined, couldn’t find many holes in the Hermiston secondary. He completed just 13 of 34 passes for 170 yards with five interceptions.
“You know it looked like they were playing a nice cover 2 or cover 4 deep, flying those linebackers out to the flats,” Adams said of the Hermiston defense. “Some of those balls you kind of got to catch but those are on me too. It all goes back to me.”
Hermiston’s quarterback Chase Knutz turned in a polar opposite performance. The sophomore completed 16 of 24 passes for 258 yards and three scores, the third a short pass to Jerod Munsterman.
Anteau led Hermiston, which out-gained Sandy 499 yards to 194, with 170 yards on the ground on 28 carries.
The Bulldogs will find out Sunday where they’re headed for their first-round matchup. In a 16-team bracket, coach Hodges predicted his Hermiston squad would travel to Marist (8-1), the third-ranked champions out of the Midwestern Conference.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.