Somewhere there’s probably at least grant money available to the person who makes heads or tails of the state’s high school football ranking system.

Numerous Hood River Valley faithful are no doubt questioning the validity of the system of late, considering: The Eagles entered this past weekend ranked sixth in OSAA’s Class 5A football, won their game in dominating fashion, 41-0, and unceremoniously — off the field — dropped to No. 8.

On the other hand, there were no head-scratching moments for the Eagles on the field Friday night at Rex Putnam in Milwaukie. The sixth-ranked Eagles led 34-0 at halftime and played most of the second half with a running game clock after they scored midway through the third period. It was the third successive game Hood River has played with a running clock, which occurs during Oregon high school games when the score differential reaches 35.

HRV improved to 8-1 on the season, and 6-1 in Class 5A District 1 play. One week remains in the regular season, but the Eagles have been awarded a forfeit win over La Salle Prep (HRV’s scheduled opponent for Oct. 29.) La Salle has played some varsity, some junior varsity games this fall.

Eagle Coach Caleb Sperry said there was serious consideration given to finding a game to play this week, but a couple of factors tipped the scales against the idea — including the fact that the team is about as healthy as it has been all season.

“There was some serious talk,” Sperry said. “On the one hand it would be nice to keep the momentum going … it was a tough decision. For our team, with our depth, this was best.”

Hood River has qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Eagles’ ranking is important because it will determine if HRV has a first-round home game the weekend of Nov. 5-6 or will travel to play. The OSAA’s 16-team playoff format essentially guarantees district champions (Pendleton owns that distinction in District 1) and teams ranked eighth or higher a first-round home game.

“I think it’s pretty positive (either way),” Sperry said. “You know, it would be nice to host a playoff game just to allow our community to” take part in the atmosphere.

In fairness to the ranking system, it’s based in part on strength of schedule, and less on intangible factors as, say, people voting - as is the case with the Division I college football ranking system. What’s more, if Hood River played winless La Salle, the Eagles probably would have dropped again in the rankings — even if they had won. Hood River last hosted a state playoff football game on Nov. 7, 2003 — a 35-14 loss to Clackamas.

Home or away, Hood River’s first round opponent will have to contend with the Eagles’ increasingly versatile offense, which was on display at Putnam (3-5 overall, 2-4 league). The team’s leading rusher, quarterback Trenton Hughes, completed passes to five different receivers in the first half. He finished with three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores.

Sperry said part of the improved versatility is due to the maturity of HRV’s offensive line. The core starting group of Alex Whitaker, Rolando Flores, Devon Boydston, Malcom I’aulualo and Nathan Lynch Windsor is back together after overcoming injuries and illnesses and is giving Hughes time to find multiple receiving options.

“The offensive line has been doing a great job of protecting, and the quarterback is doing a lot better job of finding the right guy to get the ball to,” Sperry said.

Senior Mason Spellecy had two TD catches on Friday and senior Ryles Buckley caught the other (each player also had an interception on defense). Junior running back Shaw Burns also scored, on a 45-yard, up-the-middle run which gave the Eagles a 20-0 lead a little more than a minute into the second quarter. Hughes finished 9-for-11 passing for 103 yards.

Defensively, seniors Joey Frazier and Ely Kellogg, sophomore Ethan Rivera and junior Jakob VonLubken helped bottle up the Rex Putnam offensive attack. The Kingsmen had 90 yards of total offense in the first half, most of it by Myles Barton. The senior running back entered the game with four 100-yard plus rushing efforts to his credit this fall. HRV held him below the century mark, despite 20 carries.

Sperry said the Eagles will fine tune things this bye week and have a pizza, game-viewing party Friday, when they will dial up live online feeds of potential playoff teams. “We’re going to have a regular week (but) we’re just going to pull back on time and focus on cleaning up some of our schemes and get kids healthy,” he said. “Friday we’re going to have a little team event.”