The list of firsts continues to be filled.
After a dominating 30-13 win over Marist Saturday, the Hermiston football team will play in its first-ever state championship game at 1 p.m. this Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.
The win fulfills a goal set by head coach Mark Hodges when he arrived seven years ago to take on a program that has struggled to break through the first or second round of the playoffs.
The fifth-seeded Bulldogs (11-1) can’t celebrate for long however, because they are playing the No.2 ranked undefeated Silverton Foxes (12-0) in the finals.
Bulldog quarterback Chase Knutz had a feeling, should the Bulldogs get this far, they’d be seeing the Foxes.
“I knew it was going to be Silverton the whole time,” he said. “I knew they were going to stomp Springfield. I knew they were really physical, a really good team. I knew it was going to be them the whole time.”
Silverton has basically ran through its schedule, winning games by an average of 34 points. Its closest win was a 14-0 dogfight against Dallas, a team that finished with a 3-6 record. Marist played Silverton and lost 34-13, Corvallis, which beat top-ranked Mountain View, was blown out by the Foxes 33-7 and playoff teams Central and Crescent Valley were no match for Silverton.
“They’re really physical, but so are we,” Knutz said. “We might not be as big as them, but we’re a lot faster than them, and I think that’s definitely an advantage for us.”
Silverton’s game against Dallas Oct. 31 was a mud-drenched slugfest, but Dallas did some things to keep an explosive Silverton offense at bay. The Foxes use a balanced attack between senior quarterback Cole Chandler, who has thrown for 1,983 yards and 18 touchdowns on 61 percent passing, and a smash-mouth run game behind a big offensive line and 1,000-yard rusher Sam Kuschnick. Logan Munson, who has posted 69 receptions and 10 touchdowns on the season, adds some explosiveness on the outside, and Travis Sinn and Noah Dahl, with four touchdowns each, are solid second options.
Silverton’s offense is blends pro-style passing with a dose of the old-school power Wing-T. At the line, the Foxes will use any formation, ranging from a single-back, winged offense to a spread-out shot gun formation with lots of receivers. Although their run game is strong, Chandler is a capable quarterback who is elusive, but not necessarily fast, inside and outside the pocket.
Adding to that, Silverton runs lots of screens to both running backs and wide receivers. In addition, the Foxes run a lot of rollouts and bootlegs to utilize Chandler’s legs. He’s got a strong arm, and Munson, Sinn and Dahl are a solid trio of pass-catchers.
Kuschnick is a power runner who mostly lines up as a fullback and also plays middle linebacker where he can go sideline-to-sideline to make tackles.
The passing game is also diverse. The Foxes employ all different sorts of drop-backs, routes and concepts, with anything from bubble screens to deep posts and fades.
Silverton’s defense is similar to Marist’s, as the Foxes run five defensive linemen and two linebackers and an athletic secondary. Like Hermiston, Silverton’s defense is better than its offense, which is very good. The Foxes have allowed just six points a game and have yet to give up 20 in any game this season.
“With our will and with our training, we’re gonna be able to pull through,” running back Sam Colbray said. “That’s what can help us.”