Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
CENTRAL POINT — For Ty Wolf and his Crater Comets football team, it was only a matter of time before everything came together on the football field.
That timing seems to have coincided with the start of the Southwest Conference schedule, and both Wolf and the Comets are reaping the rewards from weeks of preparation.
Crater (2-2, 2-0 SWC) enters Friday's matchup with North Medford in a three-way tie for first place in the SWC with Sheldon and Thurston, and Wolf's recent surge in production is a big reason for the Comets' turnaround.
The 6-foot, 210-pound senior has scored three touchdowns in each of his last two games to become the second-leading scorer in the SWC, and head coach John Beck insists the best is yet to come for Wolf.
"He's just going to get better and better as the season progresses," says Beck. "He's in great shape and he's healthy and he runs hard all the time."
Wolf's carries were limited in the opening two weeks of the season as Crater dabbled with different looks in the backfield, but he's increasingly shouldered the load since the Comets began conference play. With 225 yards rushing on 41 carries, Wolf's averaging 5.5 yards per carry and ranks sixth overall among SWC rushers. He's scored five of his six TDs on the ground.
"I just try to go as hard as I can all the time," says Wolf, who also plays a key defensive role at linebacker. "I don't want to waste any time since this is my last year."
That all-out effort was definitely on display last week in Grants Pass, where Crater shrugged off an early injury to starting quarterback Chase Mackey, double digit penalties and an energized crowd to win 29-23 in overtime. Wolf ran for a touchdown in the second quarter, caught a TD pass in the third quarter and raced his way to a 21-yard game-winner on Crater's first overtime possession.
Against the Cavemen, the 17-year-old Wolf finished with 79 yards rushing and 50 more receiving and provided a steady counter to Grants Pass' attack.
"I thought he had a real drive to not be tackled one on one, especially this last game (against GP)," says Beck. "He really got some hard-fought yards after contact and really ran the ball physically."
"On the play he scored the winning touchdown," the coach adds, "as soon as he started to head to the outside I thought he could score because they were having a hard time tackling him in the open field. We had it blocked really well and he slipped into the second level and the linebackers got hung up a little and once he got into the secondary, he just made them miss."
That last factor is something Beck says Crater coaches have joked with Wolf about for years, his lack of elusive moves in the open field. As Wolf puts it, it's his coaches' way of keeping him humble.
"We used to tell him he didn't have any moves but he's got a couple now I guess," Beck says with a laugh. "He's kinda got a couple little slippery moves going for him. He did a good job of slipping tackles in the second and third levels last week against Grants Pass, that's for sure."
Wolf and Beck both agree, however, that the biggest change in recent weeks has been the effective blocking the running back has been getting at the line of scrimmage to allow him a shot at the second and third levels.
"Our O-line has been doing awesome," says Wolf. "They've been moving bodies and just been blocking really well, making big holes for me."
Given more time to stretch his legs, Wolf has used his good field vision and ability to run over and around defenders to his — and Crater's — advantage.
"He's a real smart football player and intelligent kid overall," says Beck, "He's a (100- and 200-meter) sprinter on the track team so he's made himself faster by doing that and at about 210 pounds, he's a big, physical kid who's not afraid to mix it up when he has to."
And that certainly was the case last Friday, and expects to be the case moving forward for the Comets.
"Playing in a loud atmosphere like that (at GP) was a good test for us and a lot of fun to be a part of," says Wolf. "I think it got us worked up a little bit and we figured that we had to get it going so I was just trying to run as hard as I could to get as many yards as I could."
"We just want to be able to go in week-in and week-out and play as hard as we can and hopefully come out with a win," he adds. "Like everybody else, I'm just trying to do my part."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry