Pendleton and Hermiston met for the final time — at least for a while — Friday at the Round-Up Grounds for the last game of the regular season. Hermiston made it a going away party to remember.
Hermiston’s 42-15 blow to Pendleton on its home turf gave the Bulldogs (7-2, 6-1) the final bragging rights in the 95-year rivalry.
“I’m super elated,” head coach David Faaeteete said. “The guys came out and competed and did what they had to do to get a win. Even when Pendleton tried to make it interesting, we responded and kept responding. Defense came away with some big plays. ... They took the best shots and they marched back and it was just fun to watch and great to be a part of.”
Hermiston drew first blood, and put its first touchdown on the board just two minutes into the game. Quarterback Andrew James found Dayshawn Neal for 19 yards, and gave the Bulldogs their first lead. The score was Neal’s only catch of the night, but the heavy coverage down the field on Hermiston’s top target did not slow down the offense.
James would take matters into his own hands and run in a 76-yard touchdown that put Hermiston up 14-0 going into the second quarter.
“As an offensive coordinator, you just take what’s there and they’re tripling Dayshawn,” Faaeteete said. “So, it was just establishing the run game. ... All of those guys that get to touch the rock just commit to the run game, and we can throw it when we need to.”
As it turns out, Hermiston wouldn’t need to throw that often. James finished the night 4-for-8 for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs ate up the first 12 minutes as Pendleton struggled to get anything going. Keaton Mikami played a big role in that, and sacked Pendleton quarterback Nick Bower twice, while Jonathon Hinkle wrapped Bower up to force one of many Pendleton three-and-outs just a few plays later.
“He played great tonight,” Faaeteete said of Mikami’s performance. “He got off that block and contained the passer and made some great hits on the quarterback. It was just good.”
There was plenty that was just good on Friday night.
James went on to rush 191 yards and two touchdowns. Hinkle had 15 carries for 141 yards and one touchdown.
“There was good play calling all night, and just players making big plays,” James said after the win and earning the Great American Rivalry Series MVP.
Senior Joey Gutierrez got in on the action and took a short pass from James and ran it over 70 yards to put the Bulldogs up 29-15 going into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs wore down the Buckaroos defense and racked up 505 total offensive yards — 363 on the ground and 142 in the air.
The Bucks were able to take advantage of the few mistakes Hermiston made, and worked their way 68 yards — with the help of a well executed fake punt — into the end zone for a score. Cam Sandford’s three-yard touchdown reception kept the game close for the next quarter and a half.
After Gutierrez’s touchdown pass put the game back in Hermiston’s favor, he came back on defense to make a game-changing interception.
From there Hermiston ran away with the game. Hinkle ran in his lone rushing touchdown — 24 yards on a third down. James sprinted 54 yards down the field to extend the Bulldogs’ lead into the game-ending score of 42-15. It was the cherry on top of Hermiston’s OSAA farewell tour as it prepares to join the WIAA next fall.
“We just want to play great football going into the playoffs,” Faaeteete said. “It was a great rivalry game, a great battle early on and our guys just outlasted and outworked and it was just a fun effort by anybody. As we get ready for whoever we’re playing next, we’re just going to prepare like we normally do.”