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...
Kory Bennett is like a kid in a candy store these days at Crater High.
As the Comets have made the transition to a more up-tempo spread offense, looking to air it out as often as possible, it's all played into Bennett's greedy hands.
"Basically the offense revolves around the position I play so I love it," says the 17-year-old speedy senior. "Either I'm a decoy or I'm getting the ball so I'm always involved in what we're doing. They've incorporated me catching the ball and also running the ball, which obviously I love to do. I wouldn't want to be in any other offense."
Crater head coach John Beck and offensive coordinator David Douglas made the switch from the Comets' typical power-running approach this year with players like Bennett in mind, and the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder certainly hasn't disappointed.
Bennett leads the Southwest Conference through two weeks with 311 yards receiving and four touchdowns on 15 catches for an average of 20.7 yards per reception. He's also averaging 9.5 yards per carry and is 1 yard shy of the team lead held by quarterback Ty Fox (39 yards).
"He's a game-breaker, and in our offensive scheme that's what it's designed to do for guys like Kory," says Beck. "We just want to get the ball to those skill guys and let them run around. Ty gets him the ball in space and lets him go to work and he's doing a good job with it."
Bennett was the team's second-leading receiver in 2012 with 19 catches for 199 yards and was a threat on the Comets' fly sweep after averaging 6.5 yards per carry on 19 attempts. Not content with that effort, Bennett says he took it upon himself to try and give "10 percent" more for his final run at Crater.
"I just want our team to be as successful as possible so I just kind of put it on my back a little bit to make sure it will happen," he says.
In the Comets' first game this season — a 35-32 loss to Tualatin — Bennett hauled in 10 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He added a 79-yard score in last week's 42-20 loss at Oregon City in a game that Crater never really seemed to catch fire.
Bennett and company face yet another stiff test on Friday when they venture to Roseburg, ranked No. 8 in the latest OregonLive.com Class 6A football poll. The Indians (2-0) are allowing only 240 yards of total offense and, as usual, have backed that up with a punishing running game led by Levi Holden (47 carries for 291 yards and five TDs) and River Sigrest (19 carries for 124 yards and four TDs).
"We're just going to try to put up as many points as we can and hope for the best," says Bennett, who carries a 3.76 grade-point average. "Obviously they're notorious for being big bruisers but we're going to try to spread them out and see what happens."
Even though the Comets enter the game with an 0-2 record, Beck says his team maintains the confidence gained by standing toe-to-toe with tough opponents.
"We know our preseason is a lot tougher than quite a few people playing the teams we're playing," says the coach, "but we felt we had to do that to give ourselves a chance in our league. We've already found out if you play a soft preseason schedule that it's great if you're trying to build confidence but it really doesn't help once you get against these teams we face in our conference."
If the Comets are to have success, some of it will fall on Bennett's capable shoulders. As the team's top offensive weapon, however, that brings with it a target that's sometimes harder to dodge than a speeding ticket.
"It kinda sucks because they scout me hard and do everything they can to make sure I don't have the ball," Bennett says of opposing defenses. "At Oregon City I didn't get near as many touches but I have to put it on myself to get more touches, that's on me. A lot of it is game planning with what we do and basically hoping for the best and hope you can find a crease in the defense and get open. It happens sometimes and sometimes it doesn't."
Beck says Bennett carries several characteristics that have made him such a threat on the perimeter.
"He's a really good athlete, that's No. 1," Beck says of Bennett, who also plays basketball and runs track, "and being a three-year starter, he's really becoming a master at that position. He understands the scheme and he's really super-smart and just knows how to make plays when we need them. But as good of a ballplayer as he is, he's just a better kid. I love that guy."
Fox also deserves a lot of credit at quarterback, where he's completed 38 of 65 passes for 642 yards, along with a solid supporting cast that includes Dallin George (nine catches for 121 yards), Dylan Morgan (four catches for 145 yards and two TDs) and dual-threat running back Carlos Higuera (94 yards total offense).
Fox's ejection from last week's game in Oregon City was overturned through an appeals process, according to Beck, and he has been cleared to play Friday.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry