Originally published September 27, 2017 at midnight, updated September 27, 2017 at midnight
The last time HRV football opened its season 2-0 was in 2015, the same year they made an appearance in the OSAA 5A state playoffs.
Two years later and the Eagles football team has opened their 2017 campaign 2-0 with dominant wins away from home against St. Helens and league opponent Ridgeview.
Rolling into their third game of the season, HRV would meet its match, as a tough team from Bend awaited the arrival of the Eagles.
Last Friday, HRV would lose its first game of the season on the road to Bend by a score of 34-16.
The Eagles travel again this Friday, Sept. 29, as they go up against the 2-2 Hermiston Bulldogs. Hermiston is coming off a 34-14 win at Summit.
Before the Eagles game against Bend, the Lava Bears were also rolling as they had just beat Redmond on the road in the previous week by a score of 33-0.
The score between HRV and Bend suggests that Bend had another dominant win last week, but this game was much closer than it appears.
“This game was actually pretty tight through three and a half quarters,” said Head Coach Caleb Sperry. “We had a lot of good opportunities and played pretty well going into the fourth.”
Down 20-16 heading into the last quarter of the game, the Eagles’ had a chance to put points up on the board in the opening drive of the fourth.
“We had an opportunity to score in the beginning of the fourth after a field goal late in the third to put us down four, but we turned the ball over on downs,” said Sperry.
This was one of two big momentum swings for HRV that had a negative impact on this game.
Bend would go on to convert this turnover into seven points, finishing off a near five-minute drive with a 14-yard touchdown run.
The late touchdown left the Eagles with seven minutes and 15 seconds to make something happen.
But the Eagles were forced into a situation where they had to pass, and up to this point of the game, the Eagles struggled to get their passing game going.
Unfortunately, the passing game wasn’t able to break through for HRV and Bend would eventually get the ball back, scoring what would their fourth rushing touchdown of the game with three-minutes left, putting the game away at 34-16.
HRV’s turnover in scoring position would seal the home victory for Bend, but it was a single play earlier that “changed the whole momentum of the game,” Sperry said.
A four-minute drive that ended in a 19-yard touchdown run by Bend in the second quarter, putting the Lava Bears up 13-6, was eventually answered by this Eagles offense.
With one-minute left before halftime, HRV’s quarterback Caden Leiblein hooked up with wide receiver Tanner Wells for an eight-yard touchdown, closing the gap on the Bend lead.
Tying the game at 13-13, the Eagles were almost certain they’d be heading into halftime all tied up — until the ensuing kickoff.
Manuel Trejo, kicker for the Eagles, booted the ball to the opponents two-yard line. Haako Kjellesvik, a halfback for the Lava Bears, would be in a position to receive and return Trejo’s kick.
About 15-seconds after the Eagles had just tied the game up at 13, Kjellesvik would take back the kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown, putting Bend up 20-13 with under a minute remaining in the half.
HRV would try and respond with a 50-yard field goal attempt by Riggs Bardin after a 22-yard drive to close out the half, but the kick was no good and the Eagles went into halftime down a score.
“You could see what the kickoff return did for both teams,” said Sperry. “The crowd in Bend was able to get back into it and those players were able to feed off that energy and took the game over by being more physical than us, while we had to instead start coming up with answers.”
HRV would eventually get a field goal before the start of the fourth to make this game interesting, but then the next momentum swing happened in the fourth and that would put the game out of reach.
Rushing leaders for HRV were Patrick Estes, who in the first quarter had a 75-yard touchdown run minutes after Bend put up the first points of the game, and Michael Jones with 24 rushes for 59-yards.
Receiving for the Eagles was led by Tanner Wells, who had five receptions for 47-yards and a touchdown.
Leiblein ended his long night completing nine passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Sperry explained that against Bend there were a few “missed opportunities” passing the ball that didn’t help this Eagles offense down the stretch when they were forced to put the ball in the air.
“Sometimes we didn’t do a good enough job on pass protection and other times it was dropped passes and missed throws,” Sperry said. “The problem wasn’t in one area on passing, we just didn’t execute together in that part of the game.”
On defense, the Eagles were able to force three turnovers and as a team they were plus-three in the turnover ratio. Forcing an interception and two fumbles against Bend shows that the Eagles’ continued to fly on defense as they have in previous weeks.
The statistics for this game don’t favor either HRV or Bend greatly — the Eagles actually won the turnover battle and controlled the ball for 22:56 minutes of this game, while Bend only held the football for seconds more at 23:05.
But it’s clear what hurt the Eagles last Friday: Momentum and home-field advantage.
Heading into this week’s matchup at Hermiston, Sperry wants this team to focus on themselves.
“We are going to work hard on the passing game, starting with protecting the quarterback and from there we will work on catching the ball and hitting receivers on well-run routes,” he said.
Although last week’s loss on the road puts the Eagles at 2-1 heading into their fourth game of the season, Sperry explained that, “All I ask from them is to go out and compete and they did that this past week, might not show on the scoreboard, but they did.”