Crater makes history
CENTRAL POINT — All it took was two plays to change the course of Crater football history.
Granted, they were spectacular plays and came on back-to-back snaps early in the second half, sparking the Comets to their first-ever home playoff win, 31-14 over Hermiston on Friday at Dutch Meyer Field.
The win vaults Crater into the Class 5A quarterfinals next week against Sherwood, the Northwest Oregon Conference runner-up and a 40-27 winner over Crescent Valley Friday.
The Comets (9-1) will likely be without one of their key players in leading rusher Devin Massey. The senior was tackled hard with just over three minutes left to play and lay motionless on the field.
After a delay of more than 20 minutes, he was taken off on a stretcher and was transported to Rogue Valley Medical Center. He had movement in his extremities and held up an arm with a finger pointing skyward.
Massey is believed to have suffered an upper arm injury, said coach John Beck, but it wasn't known if that was the extent of his injuries.
Until the Comets made their two big plays, there was concern they'd make it to the next round.
Hermiston (7-4) had been difficult to stop from the get-go, and though it trailed 17-14, the Bulldogs were driving for the go-ahead touchdown shortly after halftime.
"I felt like we had the momentum," said Hermiston coach Mark Hodges, a former coaching colleague of Beck's at North Medford High.
On third-and-goal at the 6-yard line, Bulldogs quarterback Faafiaula Ena scrambled to his right and made a beeline for the end zone. He launched himself, trying to go over Comet linebacker Thomas Reed, but the Crater senior instead delivered a jarring hit.
Ena fumbled and the Comets' Garrett Alner recovered at the 1.
On Crater's first play, quarterback Tyler Turituri — starting from the shotgun 5 yards deep in the end zone — found a seam on the right side and made a stirring, tackle-busting, 99-yard touchdown run.
The 14-point swing seemed to inspire the Comet defense and take the starch out of Hermiston's bruising offensive attack, which centered around running back Stevie Martinez.
Martinez, coming off a 340-yard rushing effort in a first-round triumph over Marshfield, carried 30 times for 233 yards.
"They were still running the ball," said Beck of the third-quarter series. "They're such a good running team, and their front is one of the best we've seen all year. We just created opportunities, being an opportunistic defense. And we got a great hit."
It came from the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Reed, who stood his ground as the burly, 215-pound Ena charged.
"We made eye contact," said Reed. "He tried to go mano a mano, and it doesn't work. He tried to jump over me. We're taught to stick our hat on the ball, and stuff happens after that."
Indeed, but Crater wasn't out of the woods yet, and Turituri knew he couldn't afford a mistake.
Instead, he orchestrated the improbable, taking a direct snap and heading for the right end.
"We had pressure from the defensive end, so I tried to cut outside," said the versatile junior. "I got a great block from my outside receiver (Josh Dalton), a good crack, and just tried to go."
He appeared to be had at about the 35-yard line when two Bulldogs — one of them Martinez — hemmed Turituri in on the sideline.
"They got my legs a little bit, but I kept moving," he said, explaining how he broke free and elicited a roar from the stunned home fans. "I was tired. I was gasping for air."
The touchdown at 7:47 of the third made it 24-14.
On Hermiston's next offensive play, Reed and Ena met up again, this time in the Bulldog backfield as the former recorded a sack.
Crater forced a three-and-out and proceeded to swarm the visitors the rest of the way.
Reed had two other sacks on Hermiston's last-ditch effort late in the fourth quarter, and he credited inside pressure from teammate Mike Bishop, Zach Zelecki and Cory Slocum for flushing out Ena.
"That's where all my sacks came from," said Reed. "Our game plan was incredible. Our scouting report was thicker than it's ever been. There's never been a team prepared like we were this week."
Crater added a fourth-quarter touchdown run of 5 yards by Kelley Beck for the final score.
Turituri came up with another monster play in the first half.
Trailing 14-7 three minutes before halftime, Crater faced third-and-17 at its 47.
Receiver Christian Massey lined up to the right, split the defense on a post pattern and hauled in a perfectly thrown ball from Turituri for a 53-yard score.
"Christian ran a great route," said Turituri. "He set up the safety and cut inside, and I just threw it up there."
The first break of the contest came at the start of the third, when Martinez fumbled on Hermiston's initial play, and Crater's Ryan Sonday recovered, leading to a 36-yard Austin Siegel field goal that put the Comets in front for the first time and for good, 17-14.
The game-changing sequence came less than three minutes later.
Turituri had 161 yards rushing on 10 carries, including a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
He was 4-for-9 passing for 106 yards, with no interceptions.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org