The minute Angel Valencia intercepted Hermiston quarterback Robert Sloan with 2 minutes left to play in the game, the Pasco Bulldogs knew the game was theirs.
Pasco rallied from a 14-0 first quarter deficit for a 27-20 victory Friday over Hermiston, avenging a 45-0 loss from last year.
“They came out and they fought,” Hermiston defensive back Trevor Wagner said. “They are 10 times better than they were last year.”
The game wasn’t without intrigue. Hermiston quarterback Chase Elliot went out in the first quarter with a leg injury, and running back Guiomar Garay went down with an ankle injury.
“It’s part of football,” Hermiston coach David Faaeteete said. “Not everything goes perfect. When we are healthy and moving, things are great. We just didn’t get up when we got punched down.”
Pasco coach Leon Wright-Jackson has built the program from the bottom up since he took over last year, and Friday’s win is a step in the right direction after winning one game last year.
“This is nothing short of a blessing from God,” Wright-Jackson said. “The guys are buying in. We are all in. This is what you get when you are all in.”
Leading 14-13 at the half, Hermiston came out in the third and went to work. Two long pass plays to Spencer Juul (12 yards) and Garrett Walchli (19) put the Bulldogs on the Pasco 11-yard line.
Two plays later, Daniel Faaeteete took the ball into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. The PAT failed, leaving Hermiston with a 20-13 lead.
Hermiston went on to block a field goal to keep their lead intact heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Pasco came to life.
Armani Reyes scored on a 2-yard keeper, and the PAT by Ivan Cortez tied the score at 20-20 with 9:28 to play.
Pasco took the lead for good when Reyes connected with Tucker Philmlee for an 11-yard touchdown with 4:20 to play.
“They have athletes everywhere,” Faaeteete said. “They out competed us at the end of the game.”
Reyes hit Desmian Licon for seven receptions and 134 of his 214 yards to lead Pasco.
“It all starts with the O-line and the receivers,” Reyes said. “I had a terrible first half. I had to believe in my receivers and line.”
Hermiston got off to a good start, scoring on the eighth play of its first drive.
Wagner hauled in a 20-yard pass from Elliot to put the ball at the Pasco 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Garrett Walchli caught a pass off his laces for a 6-yard touchdown reception. Wagner converted the PAT for a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
“I knew I had it,” said Walchli, who caught seven balls for 116 yards. “You have to come with the ball when it is thrown to you.”
On its next series, Hermiston used another long pass play — this time from Elliot to Walchli for 56 yards. Pasco’s Traeton Mitchell caught Walchli at the 4-yard line to prevent the touchdown.
Two plays later, Garay took the ball in from 1 yard out, and Wagner made good on the PAT for a 14-0 lead that would stand at the end of the first quarter.
Elliot went down with 1:50 to play in the first quarter and did not return. Pasco went on to score 13 unanswered points before the half.
Sloan struggled in his first two series. On the second, he was picked off by Pasco’s Alan Muniz, who returned the ball 41 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 game. Pasco tacked on one more score before the half as Reyes hit Licon with a 56-yard touchdown pass with 1:01 left on the clock. A penalty negated the PAT, leaving Hermiston with a 14-13 advantage.