Category: Bend Football

Bears look to douse next dose of adversity

This season has been filled with adversity for Bend High.

Preseason practices interrupted because of the solar eclipse. Other practices scratched because of smoke-filled air (or, in Tuesday’s case, being moved indoors because of smoke). Coping with the stunning death of a former teammate.

So many obstacles. Yet here the Lava Bears are, ranked No. 10 in Class 5A and tied atop the 5A Special District 1 standings with three games left in the regular season.

“It’s been a challenging season,” concedes Matt Craven, Bend’s sixth-year head coach “And to these kids’ credit, they have handled it well, probably better than the adults around here.”

Bend (4-0 SD1, 5-1 overall) has reeled off five straight wins since losing its season opener by 29 points at Central (in a game that, in keeping with the Lava Bears’ fortunes, was relocated from Bend because of unhealthy air quality).

The Lava Bears entered the season with 20 new offensive and defensive starters. But they have quickly become seasoned, and last Friday’s 35-29 overtime win at home against Summit allowed Bend to get one step closer to the program’s first league title since 2009.

“Our kids are excited to be where they’re at,” says Craven, whose team is tied with Mountain View atop the league standings. “The key is going to be not just to be excited about where you’re at right this second but to continue to build off that, to continue to practice hard, to continue to get ready for good teams that you’re going to see in the next three weeks. … We have to be at our best in preparation for those games.”

The Lava Bears’ stiffest test of the season so far is Friday at No. 5 Hermiston, where kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. While Bend is rolling and ranks seventh in 5A in points allowed (19 per game), the Bears take on a streaking Bulldogs team that boasts one of the most talented offensive tandems in the state.

Hermiston (3-1, 4-2) has won three straight, including last Friday’s 48-26 victory at Ridgeview, and is averaging more than 40 points per game during that stretch. Quarterback Andrew James has been sensational for the Bulldogs, accounting for 1,710 yards of offense (1,098 passing and a team-high 612 rushing) and 17 touchdowns this season. His top target has been Dayshawn Neal, an all-state wide receiver in 2016 who this season has racked up 603 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Also in the Hermiston backfield is running back Jonathan Hinkle, who has rushed for 396 yards and five scores.

“They have three very outstanding playmaking players on offense,” lauds Craven. “The trick is going to be to shut down the run game without giving up giant passes in the secondary. That’s what they want to do. They want you to come up and defend a very good tailback, a very good quarterback, and when you’re not looking, they run their outstanding wide receiver right down the middle of the field and get a quick score. That’s the challenge. I don’t think there’s one magical defense that’s going to solve that. I think it’s going to take consistent play, a variety of fronts, and that’s what we hope to accomplish Friday night.”

Heading into Friday’s game, Bend, as well as Mountain View, which hosts Ridgeview on Friday, sits one game ahead of Hermiston in the league standings. A win would certainly be significant, and the Lava Bears’ depth could earn that victory. Running backs Nate Kelly, who has rushed for 397 yards and two TDs, and Haakon Kjellesvik, who ran for a season-high 101 yards last week, provide Bend with a threatening ground game. Quarterback Cooper Simmonds, meanwhile, has passed for 738 yards and 12 touchdowns and has spread the wealth to his receivers, including Tysen Scott (with 212 yards and four TDs) and Kyle Reed (206 and four).

That balance has helped the Lava Bears produce the sixth-most points in 5A this season, at 33 points per game, as they look to snap a four-game skid against Hermiston — which would arguably be Bend’s biggest victory of the season.

“A win would keep us in the share of the lead atop the (league standings), which is exactly where you want to be after week seven,” Craven says. “Trust me, we want to win, but we also know we’re playing an outstanding team, and we have to go out there and earn it.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307,


Lava Bears end a four-year losing skid against the Storm

More than a month ago, Bend High trotted out an offense filled with new players and a defense featuring nine first-year starters. The Lava Bears were inexperienced, and Bend coach Matt Craven will be the first to tell you that it showed in a 29-point road loss to Central.

Five weeks later, this is a brand new Bend team. The Lava Bears do not play like first-time starters, nor do they play with hesitation or uncertainty. And on Friday night against visiting Summit, Bend proved that it is a team to be reckoned with — and did so in dramatic fashion.

On the first play of overtime, Lava Bears quarterback Cooper Simmonds connected with wide receiver Tysen Scott for a 25-yard touchdown pass. And while the point-after attempt sailed wide, Bend held a six-point lead over 5A No. 8-ranked Summit. The Storm converted on fourth down to keep their hopes alive, but Bend’s Austin Jones broke up Summit’s final fourth-down pass to secure the Bears’ 35-29 Class 5A Special District 1 win at Punk Hunnell Stadium and snap their four-game losing streak against a crosstown rival.

“We knew it was going to be a close game,” conceded Bend coach Matt Craven. “Summit has an outstanding football team, we have played well the last four or five games, and I kind of thought this game might come down to the wire. Did I know exactly HOW down to the wire it was going to be? No.

“But these kids have made play after play, and (the Storm) made plays as well. It came down to the very end, and we just made a few more plays than they did down that last stretch.”

Bend never trailed Friday, though the Lava Bears (4-0 SD1, 5-1 overall) did not lead by more than eight points. Summit outgained Bend in total offense, but the Lava Bears’ defense stepped up when called upon, as shown by Bend’s three interceptions, including one with 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that ended Summit’s late-game drive in Bears territory.

That interception, by Bend’s Jakob Kappus, set up overtime heroics, beginning with Simmonds’ touchdown pass to Scott on the first play of the extra period.

“I thought I overthrew him,” Simmonds said. “I thought I got excited and overshot it. But I saw him catch it, and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah.’”

Bend struck first midway through the first quarter as running back Haakon Kjellesvik sprinted for a 39-yard touchdown. The Storm answered on the ensuing drive with quarterback Henry Bledsoe running for a 3-yard score. The Lava Bears and the Storm (1-3, 2-4) exchanged touchdowns in the second quarter, but Bend grabbed a 22-15 halftime lead with 32 seconds left as Max Arellano rushed for a 2-yard touchdown.

Summit’s Magnus Schmidt ran for a 25-yard score midway through the third period to cut the deficit to 22-21, but, once again, Bend countered with Payton Davis barreling forward for a 3-yard touchdown. With eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Storm tied it 29-29 when Bledsoe hit Oliver Husmann for a 16-yard touchdown, followed by Bledsoe connecting with Ben Graziani for a two-point conversion. After holding Bend to gain possession, though, Summit’s final drive in regulation was stalled in Bend territory by Kappus’ interception. And in overtime, the Lava Bears scored quickly and halted Summit to escape with the win.

For Simmonds, who had just seven completions for 128 yards but had the one touchdown that mattered, it was the sweetest way to end the Lava Bears’ skid against Summit.

“It’s a close game and it’s Summit,” the quarterback said. “I don’t know. It’s good to beat Summit.”

Bledsoe completed 32 of 48 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns for Summit, which hosts Redmond High next week.

Ten Storm players had receptions, led by Konrad Collins, who totaled seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.

With the loss, Summit falls to a tie for fifth place in the league standings with three games remaining. The top four teams qualify for the postseason.

“We’re 100 percent in a pressure situation,” said Storm coach Corben Hyatt. “We have got to win out (to make the postseason). … We’re in a one-week playoff for the rest of the season, and right now, we’ll see how our guys respond on Monday.”

Kjellesvik finished with 118 yards rushing to lead Bend, which takes its five-game winning streak to Hermiston next Friday. Kyle Reed had three receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown for the Lava Bears, who are tied atop the SD1 standings with Mountain View, which is also unbeaten in league play following Friday’s 21-6 win at Pendleton.

“This game is huge,” Craven said. “There will be some parity in the (league). There are a lot of teams playing football at about the same level as you saw tonight. One or two plays are going to make a difference in the game. We have to continue to work hard and give ourselves the best opportunity to be the team that makes that extra play.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307,

Bend High rides big plays to third straight win

In what Bend High coach Matt Craven described as “a game of really big, wild plays,” the Lava Bears secured their third straight victory Friday night, outlasting Hood River Valley 34-16 in a Class 5A Special District 1 football game at Punk Hunnell Stadium.

Bend never trailed, but not until Haakon Kjellesvik ran 10 yards for a touchdown with just over three minutes to play did the Bears breathe easy against an Eagles team that came into the game unbeaten with two lopsided wins.

“We played a very good team tonight,” said Craven. “They’re very well-coached.”

Craven noted that Hood River Valley (1-1 SD1, 2-1 overall) had a lot to do with Bend’s four turnovers, including three lost fumbles.

“That’ll happen when you play a good team,” said Craven. “We can really help ourselves by working on ball security. That will be job No. 1 for the Lava Bears this week.”

Bend (2-0, 3-1) took an early 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Marshall Davis, but later in the first quarter the Eagles stung the Bears with a fake punt that resulted in a 71-yard touchdown run by Patrick Estes and a 7-7 tie.

Davis scored from 19 yards out two minutes into the second period, and a failed conversion run left Bend’s lead at 13-7. Inside of five minutes left in the half, HRV tied the score with a short touchdown pass. The Lava Bears blocked the point-after kick, then Bend regained the momentum when Kjellesvik returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.

Another of those “big, wild plays,” and it gave the Bears a 20-13 lead at halftime.

“He did a good job reading the blocks,” Craven said of Kjellesvik’s kick return. “Then he just outran everyone the last 40 yards.”

The Eagles cut into Bend’s narrow lead with a field goal late in the third period to make it 20-16. Daniel Winters made it a two-possession game when he carried 15 yards on a draw play for a TD that pushed the Bears’ lead to 27-16 with 12 minutes left in the game.

Kjellesvik’s touchdown run — his third TD of the night — with 3:11 remaining put it away for the Lava Bears, who take their winning streak to Redmond next Friday to face Ridgeview.

-Bulletin Staff Report