HILLSBORO — Four seasons ago, Joey Gutierrez and the rest of Hermiston’s 2018 senior class watched from the sidelines as the Bulldogs won the school’s first OSAA state football championship.
Now, Gutierrez and his fellow seniors have a chance to personally deliver Hermiston another OSAA title in their final year as an OSAA member. Gutierrez anchored a defense that stifled a high-powered Wilsonville offense early and often as the No. 3 Bulldogs defeated the No. 2 Wildcats 35-27 in a 5A semifinal game on Saturday night under the lights of Hillsboro Stadium.
“It’s unbelievable I can’t even stop smiling right now,” Gutierrez said excitedly. “It feels great to work so hard for so long for something that’s come true.”
Hermiston (10-2) will play No. 4 Churchill on Nov. 25 in the state championship game at 6 p.m. back at Hillsboro Stadium. The undefeated Lancers knocked off No. 1 Mountain View in the other 5A semifinal 35-28.
Hermiston’s defense had Wilsonville (10-2) quarterback Nathan Overholt out of rhythm for most of the first half, as he threw an interception and fumbled the ball on a rush attempt both in the first quarter. Hermiston held the Wildcats scoreless until 21 seconds left in the second quarter as the Bulldogs took a 22-7 lead into the locker room.
On the other side of the ball, Hermiston’s offense bullied the Wildcats for most of the game. The offensive line pushed a usually-stout Wildcat front four around for most of the game, allowing the Bulldogs to pile up 307 rushing yards.
Senior Jonathan Hinkle continued his hot stretch and finished with a team-best 165 rushing yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns. Peter Earl added 52 yards on five carries with one touchdown, which was a 45 yard run up the middle midway through the second quarter for a 22-0 Hermiston lead.
“Man, our o-line was eating tonight,” Hinkle exclaimed. “They were giving me holes so I was just finishing off the runs.”
Hermiston head coach David Faaeteete, who was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs during their last title run, was also thrilled with his offensive line’s performance.
“That offensive line, they compete so hard and give everything they got,” Faaeteete said. “They’re the workhorses and they know they’re not going to get all the glory, but they block and they drive and they know the end goal and those boys got after that (Wilsonville) d-line tonight. And it’s a credit to those guys, their coach, and their commitment to the weight room in the offseason and it’s paying off.”
Wilsonville did make some adjustments on offense to eat away at the Bulldogs defense in the second half, predominately in the passing game. Overholt finished the game 21-of-33 for 308 yards and two scores through the air.
The Wildcats got within nine points of the Bulldogs at 29-20 with just over eight minutes left to play with a bit of momentum riding behind them. But then the Bulldogs put together their biggest drive of the game to answer.
Taking over at their own 10 with 8:17 left, Hermiston ate away at the clock with five consecutive run plays that picked up 40 yards on the field. But then a busted run play and an incomplete pass had the Bulldogs at midfield facing a 3rd-and-10 with 5:13 left, and a chance to give Wilsonville the ball back.
But the Bulldogs weren’t giving in. James took the snap, dropped back and connected with Dayshawn Neal on a post pattern for a 19-yard gain to move the chains and keep the drive alive. James, who finished 10-of-17 passing for 164 yards as well as 82 rushing yards and one touchdown, said after the game that once he knew the playcall, there was no doubt the Bulldogs would keep the drive going.
“It’s what we do,” James said. “We battle adversity really well, when we get stopped we have to find that big play and that’s what we did there.”
Hermiston finished off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run by Keaton Mikami with just over two minutes left to play to make it 35-20.
“To finish that drive with a senior (Mikami) running the football in, four yards, and score a touchdown to pad the lead was exciting,” Faaeteete said.
Wilsonville did not lay down after that drive, and after a squib kick gave the Wildcats good field position, the Wildcats pulled off a perfect hook and lateral play for a 52-yard score to make it a one-possession game at 35-28 with just more than a minute to play.
However, Wilsonville’s onside kick attempt rolled untouched out of bounds, giving Hermiston the ball and a chance to kneel out the clock to move on for one more week of football.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” James said. “Our guys worked so hard, our line, just everyone and it feels so good to keep playing.”
HHS 8 14 7 6 — 35
WHS 0 7 7 13 — 27
PASSING — (HHS) A. James 10-17, 164 yds. (WHS) N. Overholt 21-33, 308 yds, 2TD, 1INT.
RUSHING — (HHS 42-307, 5TD) J. Hinkle 21-165, 2TD; A. James 12-82, TD; P. Earl 5-52, TD; K. Mikami 2-16, TD; Team 2-(-8). (WHS 33-133, 2TD) C. Mootz 18-71, TD; N. Overholt 15-62, TD.
RECEIVING — (HHS) D. Neal 5-80; J. Gutierrez 3-41; J. Ramirez 1-26; L. Walchli 1-17. (WHS) J. Gomez 5-75, TD; I Haqq 5-62; C. Mootz 4-44; J. Her 3-60, TD: Z. Rivers 3-37; E. Guzman-Carmona, 1-30.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.