RICHLAND - Match-up wise, Sunnyside and Hanford would have had to peer awfully hard to find a single area where one club outshone the other by any meaningful measure.
Heading into last Friday's non-league game on the Falcons' field, neither team really expected any surprises. "To be honest, both teams know each other pretty well," said SHS Coach Mark Marro.
The way it turned out, however, Hanford took advantage of better field position than the Grizzlies ever had, and coupled with a few key turnovers on Sunnyside's part, the Falcons kept the visitors out of the end zone on the way to posting a closer than it appeared 26-0 win.
For Sunnyside (1-4), Friday's contest was its last before starting up its five-game schedule in the newly formed Columbia Basin Big Nine League, which consists of the 3A Grizzlies and 4A Eisenhower, Davis, Moses Lake, Wenatchee and Eastmont.
Sunnyside's initial foray into the Big Nine comes this Friday, Oct. 5, during Grizzly Homecoming Week, when the Moses Lake Chiefs roll into town. The Chiefs, offensively, feature an option attack in which the quarterback operates out of the shotgun with two running backs flanking him. Through five games thus far this season, Moses Lake has thrown for just over 800 yards and chewed up slightly more than 1,000 yards on the ground.
"Primarily they're a running team," Marro said of Moses Lake.
"It should be a good match-up for us.
"In defending the option the key to stopping it is everyone has a job to do. We'll be concentrating all this week in practice on what everyone's job will be when they're out on the field," he explained.
Chances are, if Marro's Grizzlies perform the way they did against Hanford, defensively, he'll walk off the Sunnyside gridiron this coming Friday pretty pleased. That's because with the exception of two big gainers, the Grizzlies handled Hanford and made the Falcons work extremely hard for everything they got.
Hanford ran 36 offensive plays last Friday, all but two of them hand-offs...the majority of them going to Jalen DeVine and Austin Taylor, who combined for 149 rushing yards on 27 totes. Most of the plays ended up as 3 or 4-yard gains that culminated in a cloud of dust, thanks to Sunnyside packing the box with a 5-3 defensive alignment.
The two plays Sunnyside got caught napping on resulted in a 40-yard breakaway by DeVine that the Falcons eventually turned into a touchdown; and a fourth-quarter, 68-yard TD run by seldom used Will Bishop.
In containing the Falcons for the most part, which included limiting Hanford QB Austin Forsyth to 0-for-2 passing, Sunnyside's entire defensive unit played solid. If you had to single out a few players for over-the-top performances, though, most likely the kudos would go to defensive tackle Austin Carmen, cornerback Trey Serl and outside linebacker Nathan Meyer.
Marro said the Sunnyside coaching staff figured Hanford wouldn't try to pass on the Grizzlies, as his DB's have only allowed 309 yards through the air through five games this fall.
Offensively against the Falcons, nothing came easy for Sunnyside. Most of the time the Grizzlies were working with long fields. Running-wise, Sunnyside kept stuffing the pigskin into the arms of senior Ramon Hernandez. Mainly running between the tackles, Hernandez tallied 67 hard fought yards on 13 carries.
Grizzly QB Eduardo Salmeron, also a senior, returned from a two-game absence due to a minor ailment, but never could get untracked, chiefly because he had a little rust he couldn't quite shake off. He completed 9-of-26 passes for 87 yards, but was picked three times. His primary targets were Joseph Contreras (5 catches for 57 yards) and Marcus Sanchez (3 catches for 25 yards).
Salmeron's strength this season has been scrambling out of the pocket and picking up sizable gains with his feet. Hanford's linebackers were focused, though, on preventing Salmeron from breaking out of the pocket, and limited him to just 33 rushing yards on 11 rushing attempts.
Marro said with a game under his belt after missing a couple of contests, he fully expects Salmeron to be back at his best this coming Friday against Moses Lake.
In an overall assessment of last Friday's game on the Falcon gridiron, Marro credits Hanford's linemen for being extremely physical up front. He also noted that his Grizzlies "...played a little flat, like we were kind of tired, not with a lot of enthusiasm.
"But it's not like we didn't have our chances," he added, explaining the Grizzlies got into the red zone on three separate occasions. "We just didn't finish."