When David Younger popped in the film of Hermiston High, the fifth-year South Albany coach saw a football team that resembled his own.
Burly and physical with a run-oriented offense, the third-seeded Bulldogs have rushed for 2,617 yards while averaging 6.9 yards per carry this season. The ground game was potent last week as Hermiston piled up 304 yards en route to a 47-21 rout of No. 14 La Salle in the 5A state round of 16.
The sixth-seeded Rebels (6-4), who pulled out a 23-16 win over No. 11 Crater last Friday, will be tasked with slowing down the Bulldogs (8-2) in Friday’s state quarterfinal matchup. The winner advances to face No. 2 Wilsonville or No. 10 Lebanon in the semis.
“They are a good football team that we feel is very similar to us offensively and defensively,” said Younger, who has the Rebels in the state quarterfinals for the first time in program history. “They are a physical group that wants to run the ball first and throw it second.”
It all starts with junior quarterback Andrew James, who has a team-high 131 carries for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns. Senior tailback Jonathan Hinkle isn’t far behind with 788 yards and 11 scores on 103 carries.
James is also a dangerous passer who has completed 111 of 180 attempts (62 percent) for 1,834 yards with 23 TDs and just five interceptions. His favorite target is senior receiver Dayshawn Neal, the team leader in catches (55), yards (888) and TDs (14).
“They have a good quarterback that likes to run the ball and really explosive receivers,” Younger said. “I’m not going to compare (Neal) to (Crescent Valley’s Talanoa Hufanga), he doesn’t have that same size. But speed-wise, he’s probably as fast as Hufanga. We don’t want him to get behind our defensive backs.”
South senior Jake Costello is also a dual-threat quarterback. In Friday’s showdown with Crater, Costello led the Rebels with 21 carries for 113 yards while throwing for 47 more and a TD.
The Rebels, who shared the Mid-Willamette Conference title with CV, have allowed just 23 total points the last two weeks in victories over the Raiders and Crater. For the season, South has surrendered an average of 20.7 points per game.
Under third-year head coach David Faaeteete, Hermiston owns Special District 1’s top scoring offense at 36.2 points per contest. Faaeteete, a 2003 North Medford graduate, played defensive end at Oregon.
Hermiston finished second in SD1 behind unbeaten and top-seeded Mountain View, which has a quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 Silverton. The Cougars opened the season with a 28-7 victory at South and defeated Hermiston by the same score two weeks later in Bend.
The MWC went 4-0 in its first-round matchups with South, Lebanon, Silverton and CV advancing. An all-MWC semifinals is a possibility as the fifth-seeded Raiders travel to No. 4 Churchill in the quarters.
Three MWC teams — Lebanon, Dallas and Central — reached the semis in 2016.
“Every Friday in our league is a playoff game,” Younger said. “We prepare each other real well because everybody is a little different offensively and defensively, and that gets us ready for the playoffs.”