The high schools in Pendleton and Hermiston have seen each other on the football field almost every year for the last 90 years. Historically, the numbers favor Pendleton and by a wide margin. The Buckaroos hold a 75-9-1 advantage over the Bulldogs with almost all of Hermiston’s wins coming in the past 15 years. The matchup was just another game on the schedule for many years.
But since 1997 — the year Hermiston took its third victory from Pendleton — a difference lingers over the game each year. The old adage says it takes two competing sides to make a rivalry, and since 1997 the two sides are dead even. Each team has won seven games.
As the teams meet for the 86th time tonight at the Round-Up Grounds with the Columbia River Conference crown on the line, we take a look back at some of the standout games in the series’ history.
1st meeting, 1922 : HERMISTON 19, PENDLETON 18.
Meeting for the first time on the football field, the Hermiston team — the Irrigators as they were then called — jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter behind a strong ground game.
Pendleton would tack on a touchdown in each of the final frames but failed on its extra point tries. The failed conversions left them just shy of a victory as Hermiston bested their nearby rival in the team’s first gridiron clash.
Hermiston would not grow accustomed to beating the Bucks, though, as a 62-year struggle followed this victory in Hermiston. As Irrigators transitioned to Bulldogs, Pendleton continued to dominate 56-0-1 in those contests.
16th meeting, 1941: PENDLETON 7, HERMISTON 7.
After dropping the first meeting in the series, Pendleton reeled off 14 wins in a row before the 1941 encounter in Hermiston — including eight straight by shutout from 1929 to 1938. In 1941, the story of the game was again defense, this time on each side.
Pendleton failed to move the ball well the entire game, but managed to make the best of a mistake by the Hermiston offense. The Buck’s fullback also played linebacker and he snagged an errant pass on defense. He ran 72 yards to the end zone in the third quarter and — as the next day’s East Oregonian stated — the “Bucks score on interrupted pass.”
Hermiston answered back, tying the game at 7-7 in the fourth quarter on a short-yardage plunge by a fullback of their own.
The tie — the only such outcome during the rivalry’s history — would be the closest Hermiston would come to a victory over Pendleton until the Ronald Reagan administration was in office.
44th meeting, 1969 game: PENDLETON 21, HERMISTON 18.
The 1969 edition of the annual clash is as well remembered for the game’s close outcome as it is for some urban legend-esque pregame happenings. The event borders on infamy locally in the game now labeled “the chicken game.”
While the two teams were warming up before kickoff in Hermiston, Bulldog supporters deposited something in the team’s locker room designed to fire up their team and boost them over the hump of 42 straight games without a win against Pendleton. They left a dead chicken for the team to find — effectively calling the home team cowards — with a note signed from the Bucks.
Whether the chicken incident had anything to do with it, the Bulldogs came out fired up, taking the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and extending the lead to 18-7 at halftime. At the half, Pendleton coach Don Requa — the winningest coach in program history — let his team have it.
“That was the biggest butt chewing I’ve ever had in my life,” said Dean Fouquette, a junior quarterback during the game and now member of the Pendleton Linebackers Club.
Hermiston couldn’t sustain its energy from early in the game and Pendleton mounted a comeback. A late score helped the team pull ahead 21-18 and send Hermiston to another loss. The win improved Pendleton to 8-0 in conference play that year and gave them a league title.
59th meeting, 1984 game: HERMISTON 27, PENDLETON 14.
Hermiston fans will remember 1984 as the year things changed for the Bulldogs.
But it didn’t start that way. Pendleton’s quarterback broke off an 83-yard touchdown run early in the game to give his team a quick lead in what looked like another year of the same result in the rivalry. Instead of folding, the Bulldogs turned to their stunning running game — led by Lance Hawkins, who ran for 110 yards and two scores — and struck back. The Bulldogs scored four unanswered touchdowns to quiet the rowdy fans at Round-Up Grounds and extinguish the ghosts that had haunted Hermiston since their last victory over the Bucks in 1922.
“I just want to sit back and enjoy it,” Hermiston coach Reid Segal had told the East Oregonian after the game. “These kids earned it and they deserve it. We had a hard month and a half of football.”
Month and a half? More like decades. Sixty two years had passed since Hermiston last beat Pendleton.
85th meeting, 2010 game: PENDLETON 40, HERMISTON 34 (2OT).
In the most recent clash, four quarters wasn’t enough to determine a winner as the teams played through two overtime periods.
Tied at 28 at the end of regulation, Pendleton scored first in the initial overtime. Jacob Watkins took a double handoff to the house to put his team up, but the extra point soared wide left. When Hermiston quarterback Tim Rude scored on a 1-yard sneak, a chip-shot extra point was all the home team Bulldogs needed to win their third straight in the series.
With the Bulldog team and fans alike celebrating the imminent victory, their team lined up for the short kick. But the boot was no good and the game moved into double overtime. In that frame, Watkins scored again, this one from 17 yards out, to lock down the victory. The game was only the second overtime contest in the series, the other coming in 2003 when Hermiston knocked off Pendleton 42-35 in a single extra frame.