The undefeated Stanfield High School football team will face its biggest challenge of the season this Friday as it travels to Heppner to take on the undefeated Mustangs.

Heppner has posted four consecutive shut-outs and has only allowed six points during the entire season.

Head coach Steve Sheller thinks the test will be on his team to execute its game plan.

“The test is really on us,” Sheller said. “We want to focus on our game first. We need to play better defensively, execute on offense, and limit penalties and turnovers. Then we’ll see how we stack up at the end of the night.”

Sheller knows stopping Heppner’s running game will be key.

“When defending Heppner, stopping the run is the first priority,” Sheller said. “They have some great athletes on their side of the ball. I’m looking forward to seeing how our guys compete.”

Sheller said he always looks forward to matches against Heppner.

“We love going to play Heppner,” he said. “It’s a great experience for the boys. It’s two great teams battling it out. It should be a fun night.”

While it is the biggest game of the season thus far for both teams, Sheller stressed the importance of keeping a routine and not letting the moment get too big for his squad.

“The biggest game of the season is always the next one on the schedule,” he said. “Last week it was Irrigon, this week it’s Heppner. We are going to prepare hard this week like we always do so we are ready for Friday night.”

The Tigers’ success Friday will likely be predicated on the play of its three-headed running attack. Bryce Linker, Thyler Monkus, and Dylan Grogan have paced Stanfield all season long.

Last Friday against Irrigon was no different.

The Tigers beat the Knights 50-34 behind a great ground game.

Linker had 24 carries for 138 yards and three touchdowns while Monkus carried the ball 14 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns of his own.

Sheller credited his offensive line for creating open running lanes for his running backs.

“The line did a great job of giving our guys space to operate,” Sheller said. “Our backs are tough to stop in the open field.”

Linker sprained an ankle early in the fourth quarter but didn’t appear to be hampered by the injury as he was back on the field after getting it re-taped.

“Linker’s a special athlete and a special kid,” Sheller said. “This team needs him out there.”

Sheller quickly pointed out his squad is more than just a one man team.

“We’ve got a lot of great athletes on our team,” he said. “Good athletes make for good coaches. These guys certainly make my job easier.”

Sheller likes the adjustments his team made on the offensive side of the ball throughout the game. It was 36-34 going into the fourth quarter and the Tigers had been shut-out during the third quarter.

“We didn’t play well in the third quarter,” he said. “But we made some adjustments to start the fourth, we put together a couple good drives and made some stops defensively when we had to.”

Monkus had an interception late in the game to seal the victory for the Tigers. The defense still needs to get better according to Sheller.

“We’re still searching for some answers,” he said. “We are giving opposing teams too many opportunities. We are putting our offense in a position where they feel like they have to score on every possession to keep up. We are working to eliminate that.”

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