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Crater locks up playoff berth

CENTRAL POINT — A coin flip was not how Crater wanted its postseason football fate to be decided.

Instead, the Comets took care of business on the field Friday night in a big way with a 55-30 pasting of Eagle Point at Dutch Meyer Stadium in the Southern Sky Conference finale for both teams.

The victory locked up the No. 2 seed from the SSC for Crater, which plays at Midwestern League No. 2 team Thurston on Nov. 16 or 17 in a first-round Class 5A state playoff game.

SSC top seed Ashland will host Dallas, while third-seeded Klamath Union will host Silverton next Friday.

Eagle Point (4-6, 1-3 SSC) finishes the season one game out of the third and final playoff spot.

If the Comets had lost Friday, a coin flip scenario involving Crater, Eagle Point and Klamath Union would have taken place to decide the final two playoff berths.

"We did not want that," said Crater coach John Beck. "I've been on the bad side and the good side of a coin flip. That's not the way we wanted to go."

The Comets made sure of that in impressive fashion.

Crater (6-4, 3-1 SSC), despite committing 13 penalties for 95 yards, amassed 280 of its 377 total yards on the ground and quarterback Nick Brothers accounted for four touchdowns to help erase an early 16-14 deficit.

"We were trying to send a statement to the rest of the state that this team is for real," said Brothers, who rushed for two touchdowns and completed 11-of-15 passes for 97 yards with a pair of scores. "(Eagle Point) is a tough opponent for sure but I thought we came out and did what we needed to do to win the game."

On the other side of the coin, Eagle Point quarterback Scott Erickson was harassed into throwing four interceptions. One of those picks was returned 43 yards by Kenny Fahndrich for a touchdown that helped put the game away at the start of the second half.

"Way too many boo boos," said EP coach Harry Hedrick. "That's been the case all year for us. Too many poor decisions tonight."

Fahndrich, who transferred to Crater from Eagle Point this year, turned in perhaps his best all-around game as a Comet.

The 5-foot-10, 186-pound junior rushed 12 times for a game-high 97 yards and a touchdown and was an integral piece of the Crater defense at linebacker against the Eagles' no-huddle offense.

Fahndrich's 4-yard TD burst with 5:02 to play put Crater ahead 55-22 and put the finishing touches on a 39-6 scoring burst by the Comets after falling behind in the second quarter.

"We finally figured out that that screen pass was their biggest play," said Crater senior linebacker Nate Oxford. "Our defensive backs did a great job of staying on top of their receivers."

And that was no easy task, as the Eagles brought out all the stops in attempt to befuddle the Comets.

Eagle Point used an array of screen passes and reverses to keep Crater off balance. The main recipients through the air were Jake Ringrose, who had 12 grabs for 76 yards, and Garrett Davis (eight catches for 102 yards).

Davis, the SSC's leading receiver by a wide margin, surpassed 100 catches and 1,000 yards receiving on the season. His 34-yard TD grab from Erickson on Eagle Point's first possession gave the Eagles an 8-0 lead with 7:45 left in the opening period.

Crater, however, answered with a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 2-yard sneak from Brothers to trim the deficit to 8-7.

The Comets found pay dirt again to start the second quarter on another Brothers' TD sneak, this time from 4 yards out, but Eagle Point went right back on top by using a little trickery.

Facing a third-and-nine play from the Crater 10, the Eagles went with a double-reverse. The ball eventually ended up back in the hands of Erickson, who set his feet and fired a 10-yard touchdown strike to Ringrose right by the pylon to tie the game at 14-all. A two-point conversion pass to Ryan Smith silenced Crater's large, homecoming crowd, but only momentarily.

The Comets, keyed by a 15-yard Eagle Point face mask penalty on the kickoff, marched 43 yards down to the Eagles' 6. D.J. Pree took it in from there to hand Crater the lead for good.

"(Crater) seemed to play a lot more man (coverage) against us early and we took advantage of that," said Hedrick. "But they switched to more zone coverage in the second half and we weren't able to execute against it."

Fahndrich set the tone early in the third quarter with the defensive play of the night for Crater.

On a second-and-seven play from their own 30, Erickson attempted a pass across the middle. Fahndrich stepped in front, tipped the ball, finally corralled it at the Eagles' 43, and then busted down the sideline for a touchdown.

Eagle Point clawed back with a score on a 12-yard screen pass to Tyler Kinert but the Crater rushing attack asserted itself and permanently switched momentum back to the Comets' sideline.

Zach Boskovich (7-yard TD catch) and Josh Lokeno (1-yard TD sneak) also added second-half scores for the Comets.

Erickson completed 29 of 48 for 258 of Eagle Point's 285 total yards.

Crater will now take a four-game winning streak on the road in a quest to win the first state-playoff football game in the program's history.

"The big thing was to get this win and secure a berth," said Beck. "Now we can try and make some playoff history with this team."

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail kgoff@mailtribune.com

Crater's DJ Pree makes a cut back for a 1st down on Comet scoring drive in the 3rd quarter. Andy atkinson Photo