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Comets open SSC slate with Eagles

Coming off a big win over North Medford, No. 4-ranked Crater will have to avoid suffering a letdown tonight when the Comets play host to Eagle Point in the Southern Sky Conference opener for both teams.

Given the emotional nature of last Friday's 14-13 triumph over the Black Tornado, the first for the Crater program since 1995, head coach John Beck acted quickly to put that game on a shelf and turn attentions toward the Eagles.

"We addressed that immediately last Saturday and talked to the kids about trying to learn from mistakes other teams have made after coming off success and then overlooking teams," says Beck. "Our kids are real smart. They got that figured out pretty quick and we've had a great week of practice."

In tonight's other SSC clash, Klamath Union is at Mazama. Ashland travels to Bend for a nonconference game.

As one of the teams that had to endure a coin flip to determine last year's state playoff berths when Crater, Ashland and Klamath Union tied for the SSC title, the Comets (4-1) know full well how valuable each and every game is on the league slate.

The same can be said for Eagle Point, which boasts a 1-4 record entering tonight's game but can have all that wiped away with one shining effort.

Also at stake for the Eagles is a chance to snap a four-game losing streak to their long-time rivals

That will take quite an effort, however, as Crater appears to be clicking on all cylinders these days. The Comets will welcome back junior quarterback Tyler Turituri and senior standouts Devin Massey and Christian Massey for tonight's game, and look to build off what they accomplished in their absence last Friday.

"We set a goal going into that football game and made a commitment to play every rep 100 percent and not take any breaks," Beck says of the clash with North Medford. "I think we achieved that goal and to me that was the most satisfying thing. Win or lose, if you can get your kids to play hard, you're going to have good things happen."

Derek Cartwright was especially impressive running behind Crater's hard-charging offensive line, toting the football 18 times for 145 yards and one touchdown. Cartwright ranks third in the SSC with 336 yards rushing on 37 carries, while starting tailback Devin Massey has rumbled for 154 yards on 29 carries. Both have scored twice.

"Derek's very talented," says Beck. "We're just really blessed that we have some really good running backs and some depth in the program at key positions. It's just really exciting."

Although Cory Wynant gave the Comets a nice lift in his varsity debut last week, Turituri returns as the second-rated passer in the SSC and one of its top rushers. Turituri has run for 233 yards and passed for 599 after completing 40 of his 66 attempts.

The Comets lead the SSC in scoring offense at nearly 31 points per game and are allowing only 18 points per game. Conversely, the Eagles have struggled to move the ball or slow teams down, averaging 250 yards in total offense and 409 yards in total defense.

Eagle Point shook things up a little last week, moving senior quarterback Austin Marlia to the slot and replacing him with sophomore Daniel Morgan under center in an effort to give Marlia more open-field opportunities. Marlia responded by catching five passes for 42 yards, while Morgan completed 9 of 22 passes for 75 yards with one interception.

Senior Trent Kaiser has stepped up as one of the Eagles' top players on offense, defense and special teams, while lineman Tyrone Holmes has made an impact in only his sophomore campaign.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com