The Dalles Wahtonka gave Pendleton all they could handle and more, down one score with 17 minutes and 37 seconds left in the second half to try to break the deficit.
However, the Buckaroo defense held strong and the offense padded the lead with two fourth quarter tallies to inch away to a 53-34 victory Friday in Columbia River Conference football play at the Round-Up grounds in Pendleton.
Although TDW was down to 30 healthy bodies entering action, head coach Steve Sugg expressed pride in the way his team fought until the end.
“Our effort was phenomenal,” he said. “I told the team after the game that their effort was awesome. They gave me everything that they could. As a coaching staff, there is nothing more, nothing more we could have asked for. I am proud of them.”
At the 6:23 mark of the third quarter, Chaise Shroll threw his third touchdown of the game, a 14-yarder to Austin DeHart, to cap a 10-play, 47-yard drive. The two-point conversion failed, so that meant the Tribe would need to hit paydirt in order to regain the lead, as the Buckaroos were clinging to a 39-34 lead.
Unfortunately for TDW, that was as close as it would come.
Pendleton added a pair of fourth-quarter scores on a 10-yard run by Henry Perkins, followed by a 25-yard jaunt by Keyano Walker to cap the scoring.
In the opening half, the Eagle Indians had everything going their way, as Shroll worked his magic with arms and legs.
The senior quarterback started the scoring on a 22-yard run, but then Pendleton answered with a 53-yard pass and catch from Chad McCoy to Jimmy Hollingshead to make the score 8-6 TDW with the lead.
Shroll then fired a bullet to Zach Nerdin for a 60-yard passing play, and then with 10:19 left in the second quarter, Shroll hit DeHart for 75 yards to swell the Tribe advantage to 22-6.
After another McCoy touchdown pass, Shroll capped a 5-play, 35-yard drive with a 4-yard scamper to move TDW in front, 28-12 with 5:44 left in the first half.
In what could be deemed one of the turning points of the game, Pendleton scored three straight touchdowns in a span of 3:32 in the second quarter to regain control at 32-28 at the half.
TDW could muster just the one score in the second half, though.
“We were pretty much having our way with them,” Sugg said of the first half. “We jumped on them and got off to a great start, but we were short-handed going in and we just ran out of gas. We did not have enough in the tank to finish the game.”
Shroll completed 18 of 37 passes for 303 yards and his three scoring passes. On the ground, he had runs of 22 and 4 to account for all of the Eagle Indians’ scoring.
Nerdin led the receivers with eight catches for 148 yards, and DeHart, another senior, had four grabs for 142 yards.
“Early in the game, our passing game executed and enabled us to jump on them early,” Sugg said. “They played a lot of man coverage and we exploited their scheme. We forced them out of that man coverage. They got out of that and went to more of a cover-2.”
On the ground, TDW had some success, but major losses cut into the totals.
Billy Brace had nine carries for 23 yards, and Devin Wilson went 6 for 16.
“We were able to run the ball pretty successfully early, but as the kids got tired, they started wearing us out in the trenches up front and we couldn’t run the ball as effectively,” Sugg said. “That hurt our game plan a little bit.”
In all, TDW committed four turnovers, one on an interception, and it converted twice on 13 attempts on third down conversions. Pendleton went 7 for 11 on third downs, and amassed 495 yards of offense.
McCoy completed 15 of 24 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns. He added a 27-yard scoring run as part of his 43 for the game.
Walker paced a ground game that racked up 228 yards with 11 totes for 73 yards and two tallies.
As of Tuesday, the Eagle Indians (4-4 overall, 0-2 league) stand at No. 16 in the 5A rankings. The top-24 in the state earn play-in berths, so that makes this Friday’s rivalry league tilt in Hood River that much more important.
“We win and we are in. That is our main focus,” Sugg said.
“We are 4-4 and if we beat Hood River, we have a winning season. That was our goal going into the season. We still have a shot at the goal and we can make the playoffs on top of that. There are not too many people around that thought that this group of kids had a chance at making the playoffs. We did. This group has a lot to play for.”
It will all come down to 7 p.m. Friday in The Dalles.
Last year, TDW lost 43-0 to the Eagles, so not only is there revenge on their minds, but they are clawing for a playoff spot.
“It is Hood River, so I don’t think the coaches are going to have to get the kids motivated to play,” Sugg said. “I feel we will go in there focused and ready to go. We need to play with a sense of urgency to get the job done. It is going to be an exciting week.”
Stats are from www.sportsstatservice.com.