The Hermiston Bulldogs were concerned about Chiawana’s defense and AJ Vongphachanh going into Friday’s Mid-Columbia Conference showdown.
They were right to be worried.
Vongphachanh finished with a handful tackles and a quarterback sack, a fumble recovery and a 5-yard interception for a touchdown. Oh, and he also ran the ball for a 2-point conversion as the Riverhawks got back on the winning track with a 34-10 victory over the Bulldogs at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco.
“Too many mistakes,” Hermiston coach David Faaeteete said. “We turned the ball over twice on special teams and got down 21-7. Hats off to Chiawana, they played a good game and they beat us soundly.”
The Riverhawks (4-1) avoided losing three games in a row with the win, and caused even more of a logjam in the standings.
“The defense played really well up front,” Chiawana coach Steve Graff said. “When we had chances on offense, we got points. Some of the young kids are growing up and making better decisions, and that helps.”
Hermiston (4-2) wasted no time in finding the end zone first Friday night, as Wyatt Noland bulled his way over the goal line from 1 yard out just 3:54 into the game. Noland finished with 82 yards rushing.
Chiawana punted on its first possession, then forced Hermiston to do the same. A poor snap to punter Juan Carlos Navarrete resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Vongphachanh at the Bulldogs’ 22.
One play later, Preston Vine connected with Kobe Young for a 22-yard touchdown. The PAT failed, giving Hermiston a 7-6 lead.
In the second quarter, the Riverhawks scored two touchdowns in a span of 14 seconds.
After Vongphachanh returned an Andrew James interception for a touchdown, and converted the 2-point conversion for a 14-7 lead. Chiawana forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned the ball to the Hermiston 1-yard line.
Vine plunged over the goal line for the touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
“That helped,” Graff said of the two quick scores. “We’ve had that done to us. I know what that feels like.”
Navarrete kicked a 25-yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining in the first half to pull the Bulldogs within 21-10.
The Riverhawks would score twice in the second half, while holding the Bulldogs scoreless.
“I thought the kids battled hard,” Faaeteete said. “A lot of the kids don’t have the experience playing in big games like this.”
James threw for 127 yards — 55 of them going to Jordan Ramirez. Ryan Arnold finished with nine tackles, while Cash Campbell and Cody Thacker had quarterback sacks, and Broc Remmer an interception.
Hermiston 7 3 0 0- 10
Chiawana 7 14 7 7- 34
H - Wyatt Noland 1 run (Juan Carlos Navarrete kick)
C - Kobe Young 22 pass from Preston Vine (kick failed)
C - AJ Vongphachanh 5 INT return (Vongphachanh run)
C - Vine 1 run (Lowry kick)
H - FG 25 Navarette
C - Bennie Alferness 7 pass from Vine (Lowry kick)
C - Dion Lee 22 pass from Vine (kick failed)
Passing - HHS, Andrew James 11-21-3-127; CHS Preston Vine, 12-21-1-115.
Rushing – HHS, Andrew James 7-25, Wyatt Noland 25-82, Guiomar Garay 2-1, Ramirez 1-13, Garrett
Walchli 2-(minus-6); CHS Preston Vine 9-(minus-5), Gabe Schilz 10-56, AJ Vongphachanh 6-63, Aidan Villarreal 5-12,
Seth Wilz 3-7.
Receiving – HHS, Jordan Ramirez 4-55, Garrett Walchli 1-35, Youbani Razon 3-26, Trevor Waggner 1-4,
Guiomar Garay 1-2; CHS Dion Lee 2-23, Kobe Young 5-58, Caleb Alvarez 2-19, Riley Cissne 1-5, Seth Wilz 1-3, Bennie Alferness 1-7.