A week after losing 14-6 to 4A La Grande in a game played without standout quarterback Andrew Peasley, The Dalles football team hosts the 3A classification’s No. 3 team, Rainier in a contest slated for 7 p.m. on Homecoming night this Friday from Sid White Field.
The Dalles has endured injuries and other issues that stunted a 3-0 start to the regular season, and the trend continues versus Rainier, as Dalles Seufalemua and Denver Neill are out of action, so that means Oscar Fernandez takes the snaps from center at quarterback for a Riverhawk offense that has scored one touchdown apiece in the last two losses.
“We really have to go back to what got us the level of success we had early in the season and that means running the ball, limiting penalties and playing smart football,” said TD head coach Steve Sugg.
In part of five games last season, Fernandez completed 15 of 46 passes for 239 yards with two touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He also added a rushing score to his totals.
While he doesn’t have Seufalemua and Neill, Fernandez can rely on Glenn Breckterfield, Mac Abbas, Michael Armstrong, JR Scott and Steven Preston to spread the ball around against a Rainier defense that has allowed 78 points in its four-game winning streak.
“We are going to have to be creative offensively and try to move the sticks,” Sugg said. “We are going to have to find some plays that Oscar Fernandez is comfortable with and we will look for offensive line to play well together, be aggressive and play physical.”
Since starting out with three consecutive victories, the Riverhawks have lost two in a row to Columbia, of White Salmon, and La Grande by a 43-14 margin.
During its streak, the Rainier offense has racked up 43.7 points a game against Umatilla (46-14), Harrisburg (33-19), Dayton (49-25) and Benson (47-20).
Looking at the film, Sugg sees an offense that runs a hybrid double-tight, double-wing offense with a line overload to one side, where they can either pass or run out of those formations, similar to the style used by Stanford University.
“Their coach likes to switch up their formations quite a bit,” Sugg said. “They will come out with their overload formation and if they are having success, they will stay with it. If they are not, then they will spread the field with no backs and try to get us through the air.
With Joey Tripp, Jacob Bruce and Dawson Carr on an offense that has scored 195 points overall, The Dalles’ defense will need to stay aggressive and make plays at the point of attack.
TD’s defense is coming off a game where it gave up 181 yards on 62 plays with two fumble recoveries and a season-high six sacks.
Scott logged a career-best 15.5 tackles, six for loss, with five sacks, a forced fumble and a recovery.
Breckterfield added eight tackles, Preston had a sack and seven tackles, Dante Avila chipped in six tackles, and Ophath Silaphath netted three tackles and a fumble recovery.
On offense, the Hawks managed just five first downs and went 0 of 7 on third down conversions with 126 yards of total offense.
TD rushed 22 times for 36 yards, as Seufalemua, Yordi Sanchez and Neill combined for 29 yards on 18 carries.
Through the air, Seufalemua completed 3 of 9 for 90 yards and an interception.
Breckterfield caught two balls for 79 yards, and Abbas had 11 yards on his only reception.
“Against White Salmon and La Grande, they have played great,” Sugg said of his team. “I can’t fault their effort. They have been leaving it on the field consistently this season and that is all you can ask for as a coach. The effort has been fantastic. I keep telling them that if they are going to win a game, it is going to take effort and passion and executing assignments to be able to do it.”
The last time they met, in 2016, Rainier posted a 62-20 win, as it led 36-6 through one quarter and totaled 443 yards of offense for the game, so there is history there.
Sugg feels his team always has a chance to compete against any opponent.
While the cards are stacked against them, the Riverhawks’ effort gives them a fighter’s chance.
“After their effort last week, we all feel that we should have won that game,” Sugg said. “We know what needs to happen for us to win this game. The team has prepared well and I think they are going to leave it all on the field and show up to play a tough four quarters of football.”
Radio station 1440 AM KODL broadcasts the game live at 7 p.m. or the contest can be streamed through www.kodl.com.
Stats courtesy of www.sportsstatservice.com.