The Grant Union Prospectors had hoped to be the first team to beat the Heppner Mustangs this season on Friday, but Heppner came away with the 41-18 win in John Day.
Heppner’s Kason Cimmiyotti scored the first touchdown of the game off a pass from Mustang quarterback Jayden Wilson, Cimmiyotti wide open in the center of the end zone.
Prospector Frank Douglass blocked the Mustang’s attempted kick for extra points.
Wilson scored 6 points on a keeper, with Mason Lehman adding the 2-point conversion. Then Grant Union fired up their offense.
Prospector Justin Hodge ran more than 50 yards on a kickoff return, weaving through a pack of Mustangs to score Grant Union’s first touchdown.
Heppner led 34-6 at the half.
Grant Union was energized after halftime.
Justin Hodge scored in the third, again on a kickoff return.
On Heppner’s next possession, Prospector Jack Strong made a tackle to bring up fourth and 1 for the Mustangs. Then Grant Union stopped Wilson in his tracks to take over on downs at the Heppner 32-yard line. Unfortunately the Prospectors fumbled at the 5-yard line, giving the ball up to Heppner, the Mustangs leading 41-12 going into the final 15 minutes.
With four minutes to go, Grant Union had possession of the ball on third and 9, and an offside penalty against Heppner made it third and 4.
Justin Hodge then made a carry for first down, and Grant Union quarterback Devon Stokes completed a pass to Russell Hodge.
Stokes connected with receiver Jordan Hall on a 31-yard pass, followed by Russell Hodge rushing 4 yards to score a touchdown.
“Tonight, we got behind the eight ball early,” said Grant Union head coach Jason Miller. “A couple mistakes gave (Heppner) a short field, and they scored, and we were playing catch up for the rest of the game.”
He added, “The second half, I was extremely proud of our guys. They battled, they tackled well and completed some good passes. There were some great efforts, and we just can’t wait — we’ve got to do that from play one.”
Miller said that Heppner, led by head coach Greg Grant, is No. 1 in the state for a reason.
“They’re well coached, they have great talent,” Miller said. “Their quarterback is amazing, but you know, we can hang with them if we choose to.”
He said Stokes threw well, and the receivers came through and made some good catches.
“Defense was lights out second half,” he said. “They just battled, and that was great to see.”
Grant Union will face the Weston-McEwen TigerScots on the road Friday at 7 p.m. in Athena.
The TigerScots fell to the Stanfield Tigers 28-14 on Oct. 28, and Stanfield is a team Grant Union beat at home 32-0 on Oct. 11.
If Grant Union wins, they would be second in league with a chance to move on to the state playoffs.