Bulldog football looking for on-field leadership

<p>Hermiston's Sterling Hall (foreground) and Alex Campbell participate in passing drills during practice Monday, August 22 at Hermiston High School. Both will be on the varsity depth chart at quarterback this season. Hall is the No. 3 quarterback and will work mostly with the junior varsity while Campbell is vying for the starting varsity position.</p>

They aren’t big by any stretch of the imagination — but they are strong, fast and can get a little angry.

The Hermiston offensive line won’t intimidate anyone by their looks, but as soon as they hit someone, chances are the opponent is wincing.

“Pound-for-pound, we’ve got strong kids up front,” Hermiston head coach Mark Hodges said, hoping his team can overcome the disappointing 3-7 season from a year ago. Three of his lineman, Hodges said, can squat over 400 pounds. And all of them are quick, mobile and a little bit on the mean side in the open field and the trenches.

“They get a really low pad level,” Hodges said. “Our tackles are very smart, but we’re going to be young in spots, too.” Hodges gave an interesting juxtaposition on the different spots in his line and how — not big — they are. He said his biggest lineman, Cal Pierson, is in the 270-pound range. His smallest interior hog, Jon Couture, is a wiry 195 pounds.

“We’ve got seven kids that can rotate in that group at guard,” Hodges said. “Overall, the guys on the line are gelling and asking the right questions.” Along with the play on the line, Hodges said that his team has to keep mentally afloat in order to see any success this season.

“I think for us it’s going to be about how well we come together as a team, how our leadership is and how well we handle disaster.” Staying mentally strong is definitely not automatic for teenagers, but Hodges also said he’s got a pretty smart team, which will help.

“We can block, tackle, throw, catch, run and all of those things,” he said. “But how well will we know our assignments? It’s the mental part of the game that will carry us, the intangibles.”

Working out at quarterback right are two very capable athletes to fulfill the duties at hand, Hodges said. Sophomore Alex Campbell and junior Jerod Munsterman are the two candidates, and Hodges likes them both quite a bit.

The luxury with Campbell calling the shots, Hodges said, is that he can use Munsterman’s 6-foot, 4-inch frame d     own the sideline and in the red zone as a receiver in the passing game.

“Munsterman is a match-up problem,” Hodges said. “He’s 6-4 with really good timing and great hands.”

Once senior Bobby Adams recovers from a leg injury, he’ll be the go-to back in Hermiston’s backfield. Hodges said he’s going to platoon the position with hopefully three guys, but Adams’ slashing ability earned him the top spot on the depth chart. The receiving corps should be solid with Munsterman, ultra-athletic Alex Ortiz and halfback Larry Posada.

Senior Rique Cardenas will also see time with the football, but it’ll be on runs to the edges and sweep plays to utilize his uncanny way to make people miss in the open field.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior Thomas Hamblin is slated to start at a linebacker’s spot, along with senior Endy de la Cruz in Hermiston’s new 3-4 base defense. Five defensive lineman are vying for spots, Hodges said, and Ortiz, Cardenas and Rue Ayers are looking like mainstays in the secondary.

The Bulldogs kick off their season at 7 p.m. Sept. 2 in Walla Walla.

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