A Fight on and Off the Field in Pendleton - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

A Fight on and Off the Field in Pendleton

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PENDLETON, Ore.-- Last season was Walt Johnson's first as head coach of the Pendleton Bucks.

After an 0 and 6 start, the team won their last 3 to make the playoffs. This year, the team hopes to use a tall and experienced receiving corp to try and grab the league title this year.

Quarterback Jake Talbot says, "They'll both jump, go get anything, there both fast, speedwise, they got good hands."

But this year, the team is not quite at full strength.

The Pendleton football team is trying to keep fighting on the football field as their coach Walt Johnson battles cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. He can only come to practice when he is well enough.

Johnson has been fighting squamous cell cancer since May. It first was found in his ankle but has now moved to his groin.

Offensive Line Coach Steve Utter says, "We'll be welcoming him back as soon as he can get back."

Utter says that Johnson's tumors are shrinking but there is no official timetable of when he will come back.

But there is no question, he is an inspiration to the team.

Wide Receiver Matt Baty says, "It's really tough because he's been my coach since I was in 5th grade. So it's been really tough to play football without him. It feels normal when he is here. I feel better when I am playing."

Receiver Michael Hales says, "It definitely doesn't affect us in a negative way, if anything we're out here for him, practicing for him."

One thing is for sure, one man will be in Pendleton hearts as they head to Lebanon this Friday.