Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Crater head coach John Beck has long used his football team's nonleague schedule to tinker with his lineup, kick the tires a bit and see what he really has to work with for the rigorous conference trek.
With Roseburg coming to Central Point tonight for the Southwest Conference opener, however, the time for dress rehearsals is over and the Comets know full well it's time to take it up a notch after two so-so showings to open the season.
"We've just got to take care of ourselves," said Beck, whose team has lost 12-8 to Tualatin and 30-14 to Oregon City. "It's not so much what other people are doing, it's what we're doing to ourselves. At times we're not executing offensively and we've had some silly penalties and aren't hustling at times where we should be."
"I think we've cleaned that up this week and the kids are excited for Friday," added Beck. "The attention to detail has been focused and excellent this week."
It will need to be if the Comets are to wipe away two weeks of frustration and live up to expectations that had them pegged as the preseason No. 3 team in the SWC.
"To be honest we could be 2-0 as easily as we are 0-2," said Beck. "We had three touchdowns called back against Tualatin that would've iced the game but we didn't so we lost. With Oregon City, we just looked flat and didn't play as emotionally ready as we needed to for whatever reason. We've got to go into this week and get our swagger back and get into Roseburg and see how it goes."
In tonight's other SWC openers, North Medford plays host to Grants Pass, South Medford is at Thurston and Sheldon at South Eugene.
At the Class 5A level, Ashland is at home against Marist and Eagle Point on the road against Churchill, while 3A power Cascade Christian squares off against Brookings-Harbor at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
The Comets enter tonight's game averaging only 11 points per game, although that can be attributed, in part, to their costly penalties and execution issues. They've offset that with a defense that's allowing 306.5 yards per game.
Crater's senior leaders expect to shoulder the burden of shoring up those miscues, and there's no shortage of options to lean on. Seniors Derrick Turituri and RJ Morgan are both two-way starters who have verbally committed to the University of Arizona, seniors Ty Wolf and Chase Mackey are equally experienced and capable and the list goes on.
"We're going to utilize and get the ball, hopefully, to some money guys a little more than we have," Beck said.
Mackey and junior Ty Fox have given the Comets two solid options at the quarterback position, and Beck said he's comfortable moving forward with either option. At running back, but look for junior Carlos Higuerra and Wolf to garner a few more carries than they have been getting in recent weeks.
Defensively, the Comets will have their hands full containing Roseburg returning quarterback Hayden Lent and running back Jake Heverly. The Indians (1-1) have been a work in progress after the departure of a host of senior leaders off last year's team, but Lent and Heverly provide enough talent to keep the chains moving as all the other pieces fall into place.
Lent is a dual-threat option at quarterback and is coming off a loss to Sprague in which he completed 10 of 19 passes for 104 yards and one TD and rushed for 43 yards and two scores. Heverly's 70 yards on 18 carries led the way for Roseburg, which remains grounded in its veer scheme but also is capable of utilizing a spread attack.
"It's the first league game and we want to get after it and get that 'W,'" said Beck. "It's no secret that we want to win so we'll see because so do they. It'll be a good battle."
GRANTS PASS AT NORTH MEDFORD — Anything seems possible, both positive and negative, when it comes to Grants Pass and North Medford.
North Medford (1-1) has played to the final possession in back-to-back weeks, while Grants Pass (0-2) fell just short of a season-opening rally against Clackamas and then felt the sting of a second-half rally by West Linn that saw the Lions score 33 unanswered points.
The Black Tornado turned the ball over for the first time in last week's loss to McKay, including three interceptions by sophomore QB Troy Fowler, but developed a ground game that should fare North well in the SWC slate. Besides standout senior Evan Hisey, who ran for 149 yards and three scores, the Tornado got a big boost from fullback Nick Janakes (seven carries for 47 yards and three catches for 8 yards and one TD). The backfield will gain another option in Oshea Bailey, who will see his first action tonight after joining the team late.
North was auditioning kickers as late as Wednesday night to replace Preston Chachere, who has left the team. His 39-yard field goal clinched a season-opening comeback against McNary.
Grants Pass is keyed by quarterback Hunter Rich, who ranks third among SWC rushers (137 yards on 11 carries) and has completed 24 of 50 passes for 421 yards with five TDs and no interceptions. Complementing the shifty QB is tailback Anthony Mattie (19 carries for 71 yards and two TDs) and perimeter threats Riley Veritch and Bracken Sharp, who have helped GP sit atop the SWC in scoring offense (36.5 points per game).
SOUTH MEDFORD AT THURSTON — South Medford unveiled a passing attack last week to complement an already potent ground game, but what really has set the Panthers apart is a defense that's allowing a ridiculous 80 yards and 4.5 points per game.
Thurston expects to challenge that defense with returning quarterback Cory Weick and tailback Roy Jackson, who key a Colts attack that's averaging 365 yards per game.
Jackson and Weick have each run for more than 100 yards and Taylor Peterson isn't far off that mark. Weick has also completed 29 of 55 passes for 368 yards, two TDs and one interception, and his favorite targets have been Kameron Lightheart and Jayce Keller, who each have seven receptions
Panthers senior Joe McLaughlin may have been a little too pumped up to make his first home start of the season last week, with the ball flying high on occasion, but he still made most of the throws he needed to in passing for 179 yards. Look for him to be more settled tonight and take advantage of the diverse options he has in seniors Adrian Garcia (12 catches for 126 yards and one TD) and Max Farthing (seven catches) and, out of the backfield, junior Christian Bowley (eight catches).
Defensively, senior linebacker Pat Alexander leads an active group of tacklers in the second wave that has been helped by great play in the trenches from Sam Curtius, Josh Bowden, Kyle Eli, Tristian Lallo and Garrett Watson.