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Sandy steps into league play Friday against Putnam

The Sandy Pioneers have emerged as one of the biggest surprises in the 5A football landscape. They have earned big wins against non-conference foes Hood River Valley and Wilson to jump out to a 2-0 record for the first time since 2009.

Sandy is extremely pleased with its perfect start, but it is only a start. The Pioneers understand early wins won’t mean much if they don’t translate to success in league play. They get their chance to put their perfect record on the line as they host Putnam in the Northwest Oregon Conference opener on Friday.

The Pioneers suffered a heart-breaking, 28-27 defeat at Putnam last season. That was Sandy’s third straight loss to start the 2012 year. A season later, the Pioneers are a totally different team, as evidenced by their fast start.

The Kingsmen are also a different team, but not necessarily in a good way. They were destroyed in the first two weeks and have been picked apart defensively. Putnam took a 48-7 pounding at Hermiston in the opener, then surrendered 63 points to Crescent Valley last week (63-35).

Sandy will use its read option running attack to try to exploit Putnam’s reeling defense. Running back Andrew Funk carried the bulk of the workload in Week 1 as he rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Last week at Wilson, Funk and C.J. McKinnis split touches and produced well as a tandem. Funk rushed for 79 yards on 16 carries while McKinnis had 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Defensively, Sandy has been solid, allowing just 13.5 points per game. The Pioneers should be able to keep the Putnam offense in check, and if the their run game can be at least moderately effective, the defense will not have to be on the field for longer than it needs to be.

Both teams will be motivated, and it goes beyond just wanting to get an early conference win. Sandy is earnestly hoping to stay unbeaten while Putnam desperately wants to avoid a 0-3 start. Only one squad’s desire will be a reality. Kickoff between the Kingsmen and Pioneers is set for 7:00 p.m. on Friday at Sandy High.