La Grande quarterback Parker Robinson remembered the feeling of last year’s game against the Pendleton Buckaroos.
“It felt like we let La Grande down when we lost last year,” the Tigers’ senior said. “This year our main focus was revenge.”
They got that revenge, and beat Pendleton for the second time in three years.
“It's our time. (The hard work) showed today,” he said. “We busted our butts the last three weeks.”
Robinson threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns — two to Blaine Shaw — and Nathan Reed added 131 yards rushing and a score in La Grande’s 36-14 victory Friday night in the season opening game for both teams.
“We executed. We tried to keep things a little tighter, but like I said before, we've been working hard, we’ve got a lot of leadership,” La Grande head coach Rich McIlmoil said. “The kids are coming together….We’re starting to click early this year.”
The contest saw La Grande rack up yards, both on the ground and through the air. The Tigers totaled 430 yards of offense, and took advantage of extra opportunities given to it by Pendleton, which turned it over four times.
“One things we've been talking about is trying to force more turnovers,” McIlmoil said.
It was those giveaways, in fact, that Pendleton head coach Erik Davis said hurt his team.
“We had opportunities, and I think we'll go back and watch film and take a look what we can do to get better. I think everything is fixable, and that's always a positive,” Davis said. “We had two turnovers inside the red zone and a pick six. Those kill you. (If) you give a team like that extra opportunities on the offensive side it's gonna be a long day for us, and we gave them that opportunity.”
La Grande only needed three rushing plays to score on the first drive of the game, with Reed scoring from 59 yards out for a quick 7-0 lead a minute into the game.
Pendleton’s first points came from the defensive end, getting a safety and then briefly taking an 8-7 lead when Kason Broncheau scooped up a fumble and ran it in from 13 yards.
It was all La Grande from that point.
On the next offensive play, Robinson, who had fumbled the ball on Broncheau’s score, launched an 85-yard touchdown pass to Josh Zollman, then connected with Shaw in the second quarter for 43 yards on a jump ball that Shaw caught in front of the defender inside the 5-yard-line before walking in.
La Grande later collected its own defensive touchdown when Gabe Shukle nabbed an interception from Tanner Sweek and took it the other way 43 yards. A late Chris Woodworth field goal put La Grande well in front at the half, 29-8.
Sweek, who had 161 yards passing, got the Buckaroos on the board on offense in the third on a 40-yard scoring pass to Mathias Patrick. The score brought Pendleton within 15, but that was as close as the Bucks got, as Robinson and Shaw hooked up for a 17-yard touchdown early in the fourth for the final margin.
McIlmoil credited the play of his line on both sides of the ball. The Tigers, who won the battle in the trenches much of the night, racked up 182 yard on the ground to just 33 for Pendleton.
“The defensive line and offensive line played great tonight,” McIlmoil said. “We’ve got some dudes that can straight up play.”
Zollman finished as La Grande’s top receiver with the big 85-yard TD catch. Shaw had 80 yards receiving and also recovered a fumble and grabbed an interception. Reed added 43 yards receiving.
Sweek was 13-for-25 passing and added 35 yards rushing. Cooper Roberts 5-for-16 for 74 yards, but had minus-9 yards rushing. Both threw an interception.
Pendleton’s primary source of offense was through the air as the two combined to pass for 235 yards. Walker Camp added 49 yards receiving.
The Tigers (1-0 overall) travel to The Dalles Friday.