Playoffs? Yes, we’re talking about playoffs and a few Eastern Oregon schools punched their tickets to the postseason with football and volleyball performances.
Hermiston (5-3, 2-1 Columbia River Conference), No. 13 in the OSAA’s RPI rankings for Class 5A football, draws hosting duties against Sandy on Friday at 7 p.m. The Pioneers (3-6) finished fifth in the Northwest Oregon Conference and two straight losses to wrap up the regular season dropped them to 19th overall.
The Bulldogs were headed for a play-in round bye week until a trip-up against Hood River Valley two weeks ago but rebounded well enough to maintain a play-in home game. Hermiston had been among those ready for a week of rest with the CRC championship in sight before the Eagles nabbed the title.
Teams Nos. 1 through 8 get this week off while Nos. 9 through 16 play at home against the coinciding next eight ranked teams.
Pendleton (2-7, 1-2 CRC) was one of the bubble teams at No. 24 after the loss to Hermiston, especially considering if any conference champion had not ranked in the top 24, they’d bump the lowest team to get in. The Bucks are literally the last squad to make the cut.
By sneaking in, Pendleton has one of the harder matchups of the week traveling to face the PIL’s second-place team Roosevelt (6-3) on Friday. The No. 10 Roughriders had won four straight games before losing to the 5A’s best Redmond (9-0) on the last day of the season.
In Class 4A, the regular season also ended Friday, but No. 32 Mac-Hi (2-5, 1-2 Greater Oregon League) falls outside the 24 teams in playoff standing for this week.
Classes 3A, 2A and 1A still have one week of regular season games remaining.
Volleyball state bids were also getting locked up on Saturday for area teams. Much like their football counterparts, the 5A girls in Pendleton and Hermiston too will get another match, but this time the Bulldogs were the ones waiting and worrying.
Pendleton (16-4, 11-1 CRC), though hurt by a five-set loss to Hermiston (7-16, 4-8 CRC) to end their league campaign, maintained enough RPI points to earn the all-important off week. The Bucks will skip the play-in game with their No. 7 ranking and go straight to the first round on Saturday.
Only one win then separates the Bucks from the state tournament’s final site in Hillsboro a week later.
Hermiston got just enough from beating the Bucks last week to jump to No. 20 in the state rankings. The Bulldogs are still alive but have to travel to St. Helens today for a 6 p.m. date to face the Lions (15-5), the second-placers from the NWOC and No. 12 overall.
A few class levels down the line, Heppner (25-6, 13-3 BMC) and Weston-McEwen (22-6, 15-1 BMC) each earned state spots when the Mustangs stormed back to beat the TigerScots in the championship match of the Blue Mountain Conference’s district tournament in Stanfield on Saturday.
Both will be in the 16-team playoff bracket for the 2A title, but rankings won’t freeze until midnight tonight. Only then will the BMC teams learn of their opponents for the first round, contests to be played this Saturday.
Both are likely to get home matches by ranking in the top half of the 16 remaining teams. Heppner, currently the state’s No. 1, will draw the easiest match. No. 7 Weston-McEwen gets a slightly more difficult matchup if the rankings stay the same.
At the 1A level, Condon/Wheeler’s Big Sky Conference district tournament win in Hermiston on Saturday earned the Knights a bye through the first round of the 24-team pool. They’ll return to action on Saturday for Round 2.
The Knights (17-3, 6-0 BSC) dropped Dufur (20-5, 8-0 BSC) in the Big Sky championship match, relegating the state’s No. 2 team to a first-round match against Portland Waldorf (11-6) on Wednesday at home.
The third team from the Big Sky, Ione (12-12, 4-2 BSC), also fought its way into the state discussion by beating South Wasco over the weekend. The Cardinals, the lowest ranked team still around at No. 27, must overcome Imbler (19-4) of the Old Oregon League on the road Wednesday to make it any farther in the tournament. The first step in keeping the dream of back-to-back state titles alive would be taking out the eighth-ranked Panthers.
Other local teams Mac-Hi at 4A and Umatilla and Riverside in 3A, are finished with their seasons and eliminated from postseason contention.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.