You don’t often find 48 minutes of perfection in a high school football game.
The Hermiston Bulldogs came close Saturday, and they did it in the most important game in school history, beating the Silverton Foxes 34-12 for the Oregon 5A state championship at Hillsboro Stadium.
It wasn’t just one player who stepped up. It was two. Then it was a different group of four. Then it was five more the next quarter, each trying to do a little bit more on the next play to capture Hermiston’s first state football title.
“It took a total team effort,” Bulldogs coach Mark Hodges said. “For a while, it was the quarterback and wide receivers. Then it was the defense getting stops. Then it was the offensive line and the running backs.
“What it came down to is all the offseason work. We definitely proved we were the better-conditioned team.”
Or maybe just better. Period.
Hermiston scored on its first three drives of the game, getting a pair of Chase Knutz touchdown passes to Ethan Snow and Cole Smith plus a field goal from Luis Medina, to open up a 17-0 first-quarter lead. To do it against the state’s top-ranked 5A defense was something even the Bulldogs didn’t expect.
“I expected it to be a close game and maybe come down to a missed extra point or something,” said Knutz, a senior who completed 15 of 27 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns — all to different receivers — in his final high school game. “We were just going to take what they were giving us. If they gave us the pass, we would’ve passed on every single play.”
Turned out, the Bulldogs didn’t need to. Hermiston led 20-10 at halftime and ran 29 plays over the final two quarters — 18 of them during an 88-yard third quarter scoring drive that chewed 9 minutes, 21 seconds off the clock.
All but two of them were running plays, and all but five of them were handoffs to Sam Colbray, the Bulldogs’ bruising running back who finished with 118 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries.
Hermiston’s final touchdown came on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Knutz to Carson Morter, no doubt against a defense expecting a handoff to Colbray.
“I don’t even want to take credit for that,” Knutz said.
To Colbray, it was more than someone taking credit. It was about people buying in and seeing it through to the end.
“By faith, of faith, in faith. By-of-in. That was our motto,” said Colbray, a junior who already owns a pair of state titles in wrestling.
But he admitted this football championship was pretty special because of the team aspect.
“In wrestling, I can train by myself,” he said. “This is a brotherhood.”
Meanwhile, the defense did everything it could to keep the state’s top-ranked offense — one that hadn’t trailed all year — off the board. You might argue that the only reason Silverton did score was because of the short field it had. The Foxes started at the Hermiston 26-yard line and the 14 to set up their 10 first-half points.
“It was purely our defense. And there’s nobody better than our front line,” said senior receiver Keegan Crafton, who caught six passes for 73 yards to lead the Bulldogs.
Silverton finished with 295 total yards, all but 106 of which came in the second half, when the Foxes opened up their passing game to try to catch Hermiston.
Austin Weisz finished with 62 rushing yards on 18 attempts, while Cole Chandler was 14-of-31 passing for 219 yards. He was 3-of-13 for 41 yards at halftime.
Meanwhile, Hodges finally found what he had been seeking with the Bulldogs.
Hodges came to Hermiston in 2008 from Fernley (Nev.) High School, where one of his players made national headlines after fabricating scholarship offers from Cal and Oregon.
“This is vindication for everything,” Hodges said, choking back tears. “We did it our way, and we did it with class. We got an opportunity to show what we’re all about.”
H—FG Luis Medina 28
H—Ethan Snow 31 pass from Chase Knutz (Medina kick)
H—Cole Smith 30 pass from Knutz (Medina kick)
S—FG Noah Dahl 25
S—Austin Weisz 1 run (Dahl kick)
H—FG Medina 29
H—Sam Colbray 6 run (Medina kick)
H—Carson Morter 34 pass from Knutz (Medina kick)
S—Safety, ball snapped out of end zone
RUSHING — H, Colbray 34-118, Cory Adams 2-15, Morter 1-13, Snow 1-9. S, Weisz 18-62, Dahl 4-11, Cole Chandler 5-10.
PASSING — H, Knutz 15-27-1-248. S, Chandler 14-31-1-219.
RECEIVING — H, Keegan Crafton 6-73, Morter 4-89, Smith 2-42, Snow 1-31. S, Travis Sinn 6-135, Logan Munson 6-74, Dahl 2-10.
FIRST DOWNS—H 34, S 12. FUMBLES-LOST—H 0-0, S 2-2. PENALTIES—H 6-49, S 7-99.