By David Bashore
Herald sports reporter
Hermiston Seven turnovers gift-wrapped Pendleton with 20 points, giving the Buckaroos more than enough to top Hermiston 28-8 Friday night at Kennison Field.
Pendleton was led by senior quarterback Trevor Smith, the top passer in the state at the 5A level, who completed 20 of 30 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns to help lead the Bucks to the Intermountain Conference co-championship.
The Buckaroos also got a hearty from their defensive line, particularly senior Bryson Thurman who recovered two fumbles, including one in the Hermiston end zone for a touchdown.
Execution, or a lack thereof, was the name of the game for Hermiston as they turned the ball over to the Bucks seven times, which Pendleton converted into 20 points.
Conversely, the Bulldogs got the ball in Buckaroo territory on six different occasions three of those courtesy of turnovers yet failed to register a single point on any of the six possessions.
After holding Hermiston to a three-and-out on the opening possession, Pendleton took over just on the Bulldog side of midfield and scored seven plays later when Smith found Tucker Whitten on an out route to give the Bucks a 7-0 lead.
Shae Schimmel was intercepted three plays into the Bulldogs' next possession, and the ball was in their endzone five plays later when Smith hit Kenny Melton on a tailback checkdown for a 21-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.
Hermiston wasted a 52-yard return by Mike Hoston on the ensuing kickoff by fumbling three plays later from the Buckaroo 17-yard line, a scenario which repeated itself on the next possession for Hermiston.
In addition to the two red-zone fumbles, the Bulldogs twice turned the ball over on downs inside the Pendleton 20-yard line.
The defense played stout against the Buckaroo offense, holding the running game to 86 yards on the night 54 of those coming on a pair of Drew Barry runs but the offense could not keep up their end of the bargain, head coach David Lewis hinted.
"I don't think the defense played that badly," Lewis said. "But our turnovers basically handed Pendleton three touchdowns. We have to take better care of the football and not leave our defense out on the field for way too long."
The Bulldogs appeared to mount be in business in the third quarter, when Ryan Bothum recovered a muffed punt at the Buckaroo 12-yard line, but they were again unable to find the endzone.
Pendleton then drove 96 yards in 14 plays, capped by Smith's six-yard pass to Bobby Corey for the ostensible backbreaker.
Thurman pounced on a Bulldog fumble in their endzone for the clincher on the very next play from scrimmage to make it 28-0.
Hermiston fought back with a 10 play, 65 yard drive to make it 28-8 when Schimmel plunged over the top from a yard out after hooking up with Ivan Amezcua and Holt Morris for a total of 52 passing yards on the game.
They recovered an onside kick attempt after the score but Schimmel was intercepted again to put to rest any hopes of a miracle comeback.
The Bulldogs were held to just 181 total yards in the game, 132 of those on the ground a far cry from their season average.
Hermiston enters the playoffs as the Intermountain Conference's third seed by virtue of Mountain View's 28-9 victory over Bend on Friday night.
Pendleton and Mountain View receive first round byes in the state playoffs while Bend and Hermiston will play this weekend.
The Bulldogs will play host to a Jefferson squad which qualified for the state playoffs by virtue of their 2-2 record in the 5A Portland Interscholastic lead, good enough for third place, even though the Democrats carry a record of 3-6.
A trip to Sherwood to face the state's second-ranked Bowmen awaits the winner of this Friday's game, which is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Kennison Field.