Pretty? It was not. Exciting? Oh baby, was it ever. A classic? Well, that’s probably a stretch; lets stick with exciting for now.

The resilience of Hood River Valley’s football team paid big-time dividends Saturday afternoon in Redmond. The Eagles (3-0) remained unbeaten by scoring with 28 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game and then won the Intermountain Conference opener in overtime, 27-26, at Ridgeview High.

“That was probably the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever been a part of – football, basketball, baseball, any of them,” said senior Mason Spellecy, who caught three TD passes and also had two interceptions.

Others will agree, including – perhaps at some point - the Ravens (2-1), who held the upper hand most of the game. But Ridgeview’s failure to connect on a two-point conversion attempt in overtime sealed its first loss this season.

For as exciting the game was – at least down the stretch – it also was sloppy, with countless penalty flags and turnovers. “It was not our best football this season,” HRV Coach Caleb Sperry understated.

Hood River, playing nothing like the unbeaten and top-10 ranked team (depending on the poll) it is, couldn’t seem to find its footing. Some of that, perhaps, could be attributed to the slow, rain-soaked field with unusually tall natural grass, and the absence of Friday-night lights. (The contest was moved to Saturday because not enough game officials were available in Central Oregon on Friday.)

“That first half was rough,” said senior two-way lineman Alex Whitaker. “I don’t know if it was travel fatigue or the fact that we just were not ready to come out and play.”

HRV trailed most of the nearly three-hour tilt and was down 20-7 with less than eight minutes remaining. Quarterback Trenton Hughes, as he often has the past two seasons, started the spark for the Eagles by connecting with Spellecy on a long TD pass to pull HRV within a touchdown.

“Trenton’s pass, it kind of slipped out of his hand,” Spellecy said. “The Ridgeview defender was tight on me. His focus was on me, and he never really knew where the ball was. I cut back on the route and caught it at about the 10-yard line and made the safety miss. He actually slipped. The grass was thick; it was really long. The first three plays of the game in a row, Trenton was slipping, Ryles (Buckley) was slipping.”

After Spellecy’s TD catch made it a one-possession game, the Eagles forced a Ridgeview punt less than two minutes later and mounted a game-tying 84-yard scoring drive. Hughes capped the 16-play drive by running up the middle from the 5-yard-line to tie the game, 20-20, with :28.5 on the scoreboard clock. But Robert Rowan’s potential game-winning point-after kick was blocked and Ridgeview still had a chance to win. Spellecy doused all Raven hopes when he picked off Aiden Brenneman’s pass at the Eagle 30 with 15 seconds left to force the extra period.

Hughes and Spellecy connected again in overtime – where each team had an offensive possession from the 25-yard-line.

“The play that Mason made in the end zone was beautiful; it was a great football play,” Sperry said. “He made a lot of great plays. He had two interceptions and three touchdowns.”

The play came with HRV facing a third-and-11. Hughes threw a fade route pass and Spellecy used his 6-foot-3 frame to outleap a Ridgeview defender for the score – his third of the game. This time, Rowan connected on the point-after kick, and it was 27-20 HRV.

“The last one (TD catch) was a sporting memory that I’m going to remember for a very long time,” Spellecy said. “They had me iso (one-on-one) with the corner and Trenton just threw it up. The corner, he played me tough; I just took it right off the kid’s helmet.”

Ridgeview’s offense wasn’t done. The Ravens pulled within 27-26 on a six-yard, fourth-down pass from Brenneman to Quintin Colton on its sixth offensive play in overtime. The Ravens, who had missed an extra point earlier in the game, didn’t hesitate in going for the two-point conversion and the win. The Eagles were expecting run, keying on 185-pound junior workhorse running back Eric Pendergrass. Instead, Brenneman dropped back to pass, rolled away from pressure, and threw toward Ryan Asplund near the goal line. The Eagles were in man-to-man coverage and the throw was knocked away by Hughes, ending the game.

Whitaker had a partial view of the play, as he and his Eagle teammates on the line were applying pressure on Brenneman. “The deflection, I kind of saw it; I saw the QB get rid of the ball and saw it get knocked down,” he said. “We were getting some pressure, rushing from the line. The D line did pretty well, especially Ethan (Rhodes). He played a good game - especially for the first time in that position.”

Spellecy said: “We were all thinking they were going to go with Pendergrass; he got them there. We all thought run and they went for the pass. We were all manned up and Trenton just made a great read on the ball.”

Ridgeview Coach Patrick Pileggi, in his fifth season, said before the game the Ravens would have to play without any self-inflicted wounds in order to have success. (Ridgeview was hurt by fumbles and penalties despite opening its season with wins over Crook County and Crescent Valley – also in overtime.) It was mission accomplished for one quarter Saturday, when the Ravens took a 14-0 lead. But it was a disaster for Ridgeview in the second period, when it committed six penalties for 51 yards and had two of its three first-half turnovers. The second of those miscues led to HRV’s first touchdown.

Things got worse for Ridgeview down the stretch, with the crescendo coming with a little more than six minutes remaining and the Ravens clinging to a 20-14 lead. One successive plays, Ridgeview had a kick return touchdown called back because of penalties and a 54-yard scoring run negated because of a block in the back penalty - and a subsequent personal foul (the latter of which HRV declined).

Ridgeview had graduated all-league running back Josh Biever, who ran roughshod over the host Eagles during the 2021 spring season when he gained 209 yards rushing in a 46-26 Raven win. Asplund, a senior transfer wide receiver/defensive back from Utah, and Pendergrass have proved ample replacements for Biever. Asplund caught a 19-yard pass from Brenneman on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Then Pendergrass bounced outside on the next play and ran 51 yards to the HRV 10. Fullback Matthew Mathis ran the ball to the 1 and Pendergrass scored to cap a four-play, 80-yard drive to give the Ravens the early lead.

Ridgeview went ahead 14-0 on a 9-yard Brenneman to Ryder Parazoo pass play with 2:31 left in the first quarter. It could have been a greater margin, but a Ridgeview fumble late in the first half, led to HRV’s first score. The Ravens’ missed handoff was recovered by Whitaker at the Raven 49-yard line. “It was a fumbled handoff that bounced down between the guy’s legs and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Whitaker said.

HRV broke into the scoring column three plays later, but – not surprisingly - it wasn’t pretty. After a pass interference call moved the ball to the Raven 32, Hughes dropped back to pass for the final play of the half. He was pressured by Asplund, who came close to getting a sack. Instead, Hughes threw off his back foot high in the air toward the end zone.

Ridgeview had Spellecy double covered. One defender deflected the pass into the air as both defenders collided. Spellecy came down with the catch, benefitted from a clear-out block from Jack Wilson, and strode into the end zone to give HRV some momentum at intermission.

“It was really a desperation play,” Spellecy said. “Trenton was getting pressure in the backfield. Two Ridgeview defenders, they both went up for the ball. They bumped into each other and kind of popped the ball up. It just kind of fell into my hands. I just turned and ran.

“There was one guy - they have a safety really deep protecting the long ball. Jack just laid him out; he hit that kid really hard.”

Whitaker said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the HRV coaches in the locker room at the half. “They were pretty chill about it,” he said. “(They said) we’re down but this is our game. They’re not playing better than us, we’re just not playing our ball game.”

If anything, Spellecy said the Eagle coaches were confident at the break.

“I thought going in at half, the play that Mason made on the ball … was a huge momentum swing for us,” Sperry said. “(Then) on the next series (to start the second half) we fumbled on the first play. But again, we put ourselves in position to come down and win it in regulation.”

There were numerous game-changing moments for HRV, seemingly more than normal. Among them was starting running back/linebacker Shaw Burns having to leave the contest in the first half because of a shoulder injury suffered while carrying the ball. Burns returned for one series on defense to try and make a go of it, but it was evident he could not and stayed on the sideline the remainder of the game. “You lose a starter on both sides of the ball, and it makes a difference,” Sperry said.

At halftime, the main thought process in the locker room was, “we should be down by way more than one touchdown right now,” Spellecy said. “Coach Sperry and Coach (Jeremy) Dyal they were really remaining positive about it. We knew we could be playing better as a team. We just had to go out and do it.”

Sperry said: “Really, the story of the game was our kids hung in there; they kept battling to get into a position to tie the game up. In that regard, it’s pretty cool to battle through that and come out on top.”