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Cowboys give Bulldogs run early, fall 35-7

Crook County racked up three interceptions, established the run early and denied a high-powered Hermiston offense, averaging 41 points per game, the chance to get going in the majority of the first half.
   The Cowboys trailed just 6-0 until the final minute of the second quarter Friday night, but the 10th ranked Bulldogs used three rushing touchdowns and a 50-yard interception run to put the game out of reach.
   After four quarters of play, Hermiston (6-0 in the Intermountain Conference) had protected its unblemished record and left Ward Rhoden Stadium with the 35-7 victory.
   "I think we matched up with them better than we thought we would, especially our offensive line versus their defensive line," CCHS head coach Steve Turner said. "I think that we gave them a lot of credit before the game and maybe we gave them too much credit."
   Crook County changed its offense early and came out primarily running with sophomore fullback Matt Bliss, while senior tailback Jamie Swindle was used as a receiver.
   Bliss found success on the ground early, rushing for 51 of his total 108 yards in the opening quarter.
   "It was important that we did that and it showed them (Hermiston) that we could move the ball without getting it to Jamie all the time. That was an important part," Turner said. "We wanted to establish the fullback, we just couldn't get anything else going."
   Jamie Swindle scored the lone Cowboy touchdown on a 15-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Chad Swindle with 5:24 left in the fourth quarter.
   "We did think we could get him (Swindle) the ball in the open as a receiver," Turner said. "We felt they were going to take him away in the running game the way that Mtn. View did, so like I said, we gave them too much credit."
   The Cowboys were forced to punt on two of their first possessions, with the third resulting in a turnover after a missed fourth down try.
   The Bulldogs capitalized on their opening drive with a 2-yard run by running back senior Bulldog Tom Plucinak with 5:43 left in the first quarter.
   Crook County then faced the problem of poor field position and was unable to find the end zone in the first half.
   "It seemed like we were in bad field position most of the game," Turner said. "We couldn't get out of holes. We'd put drives together. We were good between the 30s, but we just couldn't get past that 30, that was the frustrating part."
   In the second quarter, Crook County junior Mike Tracy halted the Hermiston third possession on an interception catch at the Bulldog 27 to set up a Cowboy first and 10 at the Hermiston 47. The interception was tipped by CCHS senior Colt Conley.
   Neither team scored in the second quarter until the Bulldogs found the end zone on a 6-yard Plucinak run with 55.6 seconds left in the first half. Plucinak ended the night rushing 23 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
   In terms of the passing game, Hermiston's Jared Zabransky came away from Prineville with a 14 for 25 effort and 179 yards, while Crook County's Chad Swindle found success of his own completeing11 of 20, 143 yards and a touchdown.
   "I thought that Chad Swindle had his best game," Turner said. "He started to find his rhythm in the second half."
   In the third quarter, CCHS senior Adam Barney came down with two interceptions for Crook County, both crucial stops to Hermiston drives.
   "I just watched the quarterback and played the game," Barney said a few feet from the playing field.
   In addition to creating two Hermiston turnovers, Barney ended the game with 35 yards receiving on two catches, while senior Evan Hendrix led the Cowboys with three catches and 50 yards.
   The Bulldogs scored two touchdowns in the third, one off a 22-yard run by Allen Ayers and one off a 19-yard Zabransky run with 8:55 left.
   Hermiston's final score came on a fourth quarter interception return from junior Tyson Banker. Coach Turner said even though the Cowboys couldn't secure a win, he was pleased with his team's ability to play hard.
   "Well, you're never happy happy when you lose, but I was pleased with the effort that our kids made," Turner said. "The effort was there, but we need to eliminate little mistakes, the little mistakes that put us in a hole."