CENTRAL POINT — Crater head football coach John Beck needed but one word to describe the things his team must work on following a 30-14 loss to Grants Pass on Friday night.
"Everything," he said as he disappeared into the locker room at Dutch Meyer Field.
Where to begin?
The winless Comets gave the ball away often (they had five turnovers) and then struggled to get it back from a Grants Pass squad that gained momentum. The Cavemen were in complete control as they methodically took seven minutes, four seconds off the clock on their final drive in the fourth quarter, leaving Crater with just 3:27. By then, the Comets' 7-0 lead in the first quarter felt like a distant memory.
Now Crater is 0-4 overall, 0-2 in the Southwest Conference and scheduled next to play at North Medford — which upset Sheldon on Friday.
"We are going to have a meeting tomorrow and we are going to get it done and fix things," said Crater starting quarterback Ty Fox, who had four lost fumbles and an interception. He completed 16 of his 35 passing attempts for 145 yards and a touchdown and carried the ball 18 times for 59 yards and a score.
The Cavemen (2-2, 1-1 SWC) used a big night from junior running back Ben Dean to wear down the Comets and set up junior kicker Moges Dinkins, who booted in three field goals.
Dean had 141 rushing yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Quarterback Javan Appling was 14-of-23 passing for 145 yards, and he added 11 carries for 35 yards.
In total, Grants Pass had 224 rushing yards and 24 first downs.
"(I'm happiest about) our ball control," Grants Pass head coach John Musser said. "That was something we wanted to do tonight. And I'm happiest about the win, to be honest with you. We are 1-1 in conference. But the way we went about it: it was an old-fashioned, gritty, downhill football game. That was nice to see, just being able to eat up the clock, use our tight ends (while) still getting a lot of different sets in there and still running downhill. For this team, that is going to be the key for us to win some games in this league: controlling the football, controlling the clock and running downhill."
The home team had a few chances to pull ahead early, but was unsuccessful. Crater blocked a Grants Pass punt on the opening possession and recovered at the Cavemen 29-yard line. But the drive ended with Austin Crider's field goal attempt being blocked by Drake Brennan.
The Comets got another shot right away when Grants Pass fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive, but Fox was picked off at the Crater 5 by Trevyn Reed.
Later in the quarter, the Comets found themselves in the red zone again after Taran Lewis recovered a dropped Grants Pass punt return. But the drive ended with Fox being sacked, throwing an incomplete pass and then fumbling.
"The defensive line did a good job," Musser said. "Our defensive coordinator threw a lot of stuff at them. There was a lot of different blitzes that we haven't shown all year. It was all new stuff that we had in our package."
Fox found receiver Matt Dent for an 11-yard gain at the GP 1 before hitting Dylan Morgan from 2 yards out with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
Dean tied the game at 7 with his touchdown with 10:03 remaining in the second quarter. Grants Pass then got the ball back on a Fox fumble and scored again, with Appling recording a 2-yard TD run.
On Crater's next possession, Fox fumbled around the Cavemen 27. Grants Pass pieced together a 13-play drive that ended in Dinkins' 26-yard field goal. Another fumble in the third led to another long Grants Pass drive and Dinkins' 25-yard field goal, which gave his team a 20-7 advantage.
"It doesn't matter if pressure is coming or not, I have to make plays out of it," Fox said. "I'm quarterback of this team and I have to lead this team to wins."
Appling connected with a wide-open Hayden Chandler on a 40-yard TD strike with 43 seconds left in the third, making it 27-7 Grants Pass.
In the fourth, Dent grabbed another key catch from Fox — this one for 19 yards — and Fox punched in the score from a yard out, cutting the deficit to 13 points with 10:31 left in the contest.
The Cavemen's next drive was a crushing one for the Crater faithful. Beginning at the GP 25, they ran the ball four times, drew a costly pass interference call, and then got off eight more plays before Dinkins launched in a 31-yard field goal.
The Comets had but 3:27 left.
"Hats off to them," Beck said of Grants Pass. "They played a really, super good ballgame and came back from 7-0 and got after us up front on both sides, and hats off to them. I thought they played a really good game."
Zachary Hannan had 10 carries for 46 yards for the Cavemen.
Davey McCollum recorded 54 rushing yards on six carries and Carlos Higuera nine carries for 41 yards for the Comets.
Dallin George had eight catches for 75 yards, Dent four grabs for 47 yards and Kory Bennett three catches for 21 yards for Crater.
Said Fox: "We just have to learn from it and get better."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org