The La Grande Tigers and Brandon Dall (2) will host Ontario searching for a GOL win at 7 p.m. tonight. (Observer file)
La Grande will be trying to pick up its first Greater Oregon League win this season, but will be missing a part of the team Friday.
Tigers head coach Kenny Mace will not be allowed in the building after receiving a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties in last week’s Baker City loss, 43-8.
“It kills me,” Mace said. “I want to be able to be out there on the field with the team and see them having fun playing football.
“I told them I’ll be listening in. And after the game to come talk to me and tell me all about it.”
Mace received the first penalty after the team didn’t come out in enough time to start the second half. The second penalty came with six minutes in the fourth quarter when an official thought Mace was disputing a call.
There was a lot of laundry on the field during the game. La Grande was penalized 10 times, and Baker received 17 penalties.
Craig Horton, the second-year offensive line coach, will act as the head coach for the Tigers when they host Ontario at 7 p.m. in Community Stadium.
“Craig has done a heck of a job the whole time he’s been with the program,” Mace said. “He puts in a lot of time and is committed to the team, just like the rest of the staff.”
While Horton deals with the offense, it will be the defense that needs to step up against an Ontario team looking to keep the mometum going after picking up back-to-back wins.
During the 50-6 GOL win last week against Mac-Hi, Ontario showcased its offense. With Jason Haueter at receiver, Ontario likes to run the fly-sweep. Against the Pioneers, Haueter ran for 85 yards, with 62 yards coming on a touchdown run in the second quarter. He also caught two passes for 94 yards.
Ben Turner will be the featured back. He finished with 109 yards on 20 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
Finally, quarterback Mike Hussey has to be respected as a runner, too. He scored on a 26-yard run, finishing with 44 yards.
“They’re going to run the fly-sweep over and over until you can stop it,” Mace said. “It’s all about staying home and doing what your position is assigned to do.
“We worked with our linebackers a lot this week on that and defending the pass over the middle. That’s where Baker really hurt us.”
Offensively, eliminating costly penalties will be step one. Step two will be sustaining drives like La Grande did against Burns and during last week’s 27-25 win over Weiser, Idaho.
However, against Baker the drives were far a few between. La Grande finished with 158 yards of total offense against the Bulldogs.
The offensive line will need to do a better job opening holes for the running backs. La Grande gained 69 yards on 41 attempts, an average of 1.6 yards per carry.
The injury report will make it tougher to do so though according to Mace.
“(Running back) Jared Rodgers will be out with a concussion,” Mace said. “Receiver Alec (Cranford) will probably be out too.
“We’re going to go out in warm-ups and see who will be able to play and who can’t. It’s that point of the season where everyone is a little banged up.”
La Grande will need all hands on deck for this game, the most important of the season. Any chance of a playoff berth rests on this game.
“I told the team we’re in the playoffs right now,” Mace said. “The seniors know if they want to play more than two more games they have to be able to get a win against Ontario.
“Thankfully, it’s at home. We seem to play better at (Community Stadium). I won’t see it tomorrow but I hope we do.”