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Pioneers pounce on Hood River in opener

Sandy scores on its opening drive, and pushes past Hood River 47-21


by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandy running back Andrew Funk breaks around the end for a 41-yard gain on the teams first play Friday night. The Sandy football team had a whole year to think about last season’s opening-game loss at Hood River Valley. On Friday night, the Pioneers put those regrets and frustrations to rest. Sandy ushered in the Joe-Polamalu-era in style by pummeling Hood River, 47-21, in the season opener to avenge last year’s defeat.

“That first game, you never really know how it’s going to go,” Polamalu said. “We found out a lot about ourselves and where we’re at. Most of all, I’m excited at their energy. I’m excited at how they are responding to each other.”

The Pioneers came out with all the energy and could not have drawn up a better start. On the first play from scrimmage, running back Andrew Funk found room around the left edge and dashed for a 41-yard run. Funk’s long rush got the Pioneers fired up and they marched all the way down the field. They punched it into the end zone on a short run by Funk to score the season’s first touchdown.

“I feel like that got us going,” Funk said. “We were definitely more prepared and energetic.”

The momentum created by the opening drive carried over to Sandy’s first defensive series. After pushing the Eagles behind the line of scrimmage on the first two plays, the Sandy defense put intense pressure on Hood River quarterback Riley Van Hoose. Van Hoose overthrew his receiver and the ball sailed into the hands of Sandy defensive back Ryan Skidmore who made the interception to give his team a short field. The Pioneers turned the turnover into a field goal by Andrew Spencer.

Facing a 10-0 deficit, the Eagles weren’t ready to give in just yet. They lost yardage on each of their first two possessions, but strung together two touchdown drives on their next three possessions to take a 14-10. Hood River held that lead until late in the second quarter, but Sandy kept coming with big play after big play, and the Eagles couldn’t keep up.

With 3:41 remaining in the first half, Sandy quarterback Spencer Barnett peeled off a 16-yard touchdown run on what started as a broken play. The Sandy defense forced a quick three-and-out to give the offense the ball back with 2:40 left. Barnett called his own number on three straight plays and recorded runs of 13 yards, nine yards and eight yards. With the clock winding down, Barnett found Skidmore in the end zone of a fade route to give the Pioneers a 28-yard touchdown, and an eight-point lead going into halftime.

The big plays didn’t diminish in the second half. On Sandy’s first offensive play of the third quarter, Funk burst through the line and sprinted for a 42-yard touchdown to put the Pioneers up 29-14. Sandy had four plays of at least 28 yards in the game.

“Those big plays sometimes come and go,” Polamalu said. “We want to be consistent and a team that can methodically move down the field. But we certainly won’t turn down big plays when they come.”

Sandy extended its lead to 41-21 in the fourth quarter and took over with less than 90 seconds left. Backup quarterback Dakota Dixon was in the game to run out the clock, but ended up with a touchdown. From his own 23-yard line, Dixon kept the ball on a read option and went untouched as he raced 77 yards down the field for the score.

Funk was the offensive star for the Pioneers as he scored two touchdowns and ran for 157 yards on 20 carries. As a team, Sandy had 391 rushing yards and 525 yards of total offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Skidmore and Garrett Rotzien had interceptions while defensive lineman Carlos Deker-Martinez was responsible for a safety. As a defensive unit, Sandy held Hood River to negative yardage on five possessions.