Ashland’s volleyball program had quite a run brewing from 2005-09, securing top-four state trophies in all five seasons.
CENTRAL POINT — In Hollywood terms, the Crater football team's night played out something like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. As the game aged, the Comets got younger.
South Eugene's script wasn't nearly as inspirational: It would have been titled something like, "The Axemen's Series of Unfortunate Events".
Crater's lead — and South Eugene's troubles — grew large as the misty sky grew black. When the lights went out at Dutch Meyer Field, the Comets packed up a 49-12 victory over the depleted and winless Axemen and headed for their Homecoming celebrations with some much-needed mojo restored.
Crater did just about everything right in its dance before the dance — and before its key tango next week against South Medford. In the first half alone, the Comets forced four turnovers, blocked a punt and scored on it, limited South Eugene to 26 total yards, racked up 229 yards of their own and led 35-0. Crater's youthful bench got plenty of experience in the second half.
Senior quarterback Chase Mackey orchestrated the offense effectively (12 different players carried the ball and 10 different players made a catch) and dominated on defense. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown and ran for 38 yards and a score. On the other end, the defensive back picked off two passes and also blocked a first-quarter punt that teammate Eduardo Duran recovered for a TD.
Ty Fox, a junior, replaced Mackey in the third quarter and — by the time the fourth quarter rolled around — sophomore signal caller Dylan Morgan and Crater's junior varsity squad were on display.
"It was senior night," Mackey said. "I was super emotional. It's nearly impossible not to have a good game on a night like this."
The Axemen could have used some extra bodies. They started the game with just 20 available players and suffered a couple injuries during the rout.
The Comets, who were coming off losses to Sheldon and Thurston, will play South Medford in their regular-season finale next Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium. Both teams are tied for second place with Thurston in the Southwest Conference with 4-2 records.
"It'll be a great challenge," Crater head coach John Beck said. "(South Medford) is a really good football team and it'll be a really hard challenge for us. But I'm excited to go into Spiegelberg and see what we can do."
Kory Bennett, who finished with 48 rushing yards and two touchdowns, put the Comets (4-4, 4-2 SWC) on the scoreboard first with a 12-yard run late in the first quarter, when the Axemen had three of their giveaways.
"The defense kept our offense on the field and that is what we like," Bennett said. "We want our offense to put up big numbers, that is how we win."
On the first play of the second quarter, Mackey intercepted a Liam Duncan pass around the South Eugene 25 and brought it back to the 1. That steal set up Ty Wolf's 1-yard TD plunge. That same quarter, Mackey hit Bennett for a 15-yard scoring strike and, later, Duran cashed in on South Eugene's struggling special teams unit with his blocked punt recovery in the end zone.
Mackey finished off another impressive drive with a 27-yard touchdown run with 24 seconds left in the second quarter. That put the Comets ahead 35-0.
Fox ran for a score and threw a 15-yard TD pass to Taylor Peterson in the third period against the Axemen (0-8, 0-6 SWC).
Wolf carried the ball seven times for 53 yards and Peterson made four catches for 51 yards for Crater, which had 21 first downs to South Eugene's 10.
Duncan, a sophomore, was terrorized by behemoths like Michael Crippen, Sal Flores and Duran. He finished 11-for-25 with three interceptions (Andrew Horton picked off a pass in the first quarter).
The Comets struggled against the other SWC teams from Eugene. Last week they lost 33-10 to Thurston and, the week before, they fell to Sheldon 48-0.
"That was one of the more disappointing moments the whole year," Mackey said of the loss to Thurston. "We knew we could compete with them. We just didn't execute. We didn't want to keep going on a losing streak."
Derek Turituri, who has verbally committed to play at the University of Arizona along with teammate RJ Morgan, didn't play with a groin injury but is expected to be ready next week.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org