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PREP FOOTBALL: Crater, Thurston meet in marquee game

Only entering the third week of the high school football season, it’s hard to imagine any matchup could be a turning point in the season, but that’s exactly the setup Friday when top-ranked Thurston travels to face No. 2 Crater.

The marquee matchup of the week stands to go a long way toward proving whether Thurston is destined to defend its Class 5A state championship or if Crater is a legitimate threat to that throne.

“We’re in a position where we want to compete for conference championships and state championships,” said Crater head coach Randy Waite, “so this is a good gauge early in the season to see what we need to do and what we need to work on to progress.”

Both teams enter the game at Dutch Meyer Field with 2-0 records and impressive totals, with Crater outscoring Wilsonville and Willamette a combined 96-7 and Thurston opening eyes statewide behind impressive wins over Churchill (55-0) and 6A power Sheldon (34-19).

“They’re the defending state champs for a reason,” said Waite of the Colts. “They’re physical and similar to us as far as a lot of seniors go. They can hurt you in a number of ways. They’re good defensively and they can throw the ball and run the ball. They’re one of the best teams in the state no matter what classification.”

In Friday’s other 5A action, Ashland plays at Ridgeview and Eagle Point travels to Springfield.

At the 6A level, South Medford is host to Liberty, with North Medford at Bend and Grants Pass at home against Mountain View.

Among the local smaller schools, Phoenix will be at Sweet Home, St. Mary’s plays host to Regis, Cascade Christian is at Harrisburg and Rogue River travels to Brookings-Harbor.

A year ago, Crater and Thurston waged an exciting back-and-forth battle that resulted in a 40-35 win by the Colts.

Several of the returning Comets felt they left some plays on the field last year and realize how close they came to what could have been a pivotal victory, and they don’t want to experience that empty feeling in front of their home crowd despite Thurston’s obvious advantages in size and big-game experience.

“Maybe our guys aren’t the biggest but they’re all football players,” said Crater senior standout Gavin Acrey. “Those kids, they won’t give up easily.”

Crater’s balanced attack has averaged 491 yards and 48 points per game, with senior quarterback Trever Davis leading the charge by doing whatever is necessary on a given night. Davis has rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown and completed 29 of 45 passes for 417 yards and seven TDs.

Overall, however, the Comets have been remarkably balanced. Five players have run for at least 45 yards, led by Acrey’s 184 yards with two scores, and five players have at least 50 yards receiving, led by Dawson Douglas (seven catches, 128 yards, three TDs).

“We’re not a deep team but we spread the ball around pretty well I think so it’s a different guy every time for us,” said Waite. “We have guys that don’t have the big gaudy numbers because five or six or seven receivers catch the ball and four or five guys run the ball. It always starts with Trever at quarterback, but he ran for over 100 yards against Wilsonville and he only ran two times against Willamette. It’s just kind of what the game dictates, and I think that helps us that if you take one person or one scheme away we’ve got other guys that can step up and make plays, and that’s a good thing.”

Thurston is powered by senior Cade Crist, a 6-1, 210-pound quarterback who completed 25 of 33 passes for 328 yards, four TDs and one interception last week against Sheldon.

Crist has ample targets when he drops back to pass, including seniors Caleb Scott, Santino Stranieri and Kyle Casley and junior Dawson Muggy. Scott hauled in seven passes for 78 yards and one TD while Stranieri had six catches for 69 yards and two scores and Muggy turned three catches into 81 yards and one TD.

In the backfield, senior Wesley Kommer (5-9, 205) ran 20 times for 159 yards and one TD against the Irish.

Defensively, senior linebacker Jake Riley is joined by Stranieri, Casley and Muggy in helping set the tone for the Colts.

LIBERTY AT SOUTH MEDFORD: Four fourth-quarter turnovers cost Liberty (1-1) a chance to upend Beaverton last week, while South Medford (2-0) bolted to a 16-0 lead but had to hang on for a 16-13 triumph over Canby.

Needless to say, each team spent a week trying to iron out issues and will be looking for better execution and cleaner play Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium.

Liberty features 6-3 senior receiver Marquis Brown, 6-1 senior running back Cole Smith and 6-0 sophomore quarterback Hiro Diamond in an unconventional offensive scheme that has the Falcons running a triple option out of a spread lineup, lining up in a double-wing formation before motioning in a receiver who becomes another pitch option.

“They’ve got some good skill players that we need to be concerned about,” said Panthers coach Bill Singler. “They get your attention, obviously. We only have a few days to prepare and it’s not the easiest offense to prepare for so we’ve got our work cut out for us, but that’s good. That’s what preseason games are for, to see different types of offensive approaches to toughen you up for league.”

Making it even more challenging is the loss of junior center/defensive tackle Cameron Davis, who was lost for the season after suffering a broken ankle in last week’s win over Canby. The Panthers will also be without senior linebacker James Duane, who is sitting out a mandatory game after being ejected for a late hit last week.

Offensively, senior Austin Boster remains slowed by a nagging injury but has still hauled in 10 passes for 204 yards and four TDs from senior quarterback Toren Tuttle, who has completed 27 of 42 passes for 434 yards and six scores.

On the ground, senior Isaac Dillon has churned out 119 yards on 25 carries to pace South.

NORTH MEDFORD AT BEND: North Medford faces another winless program in Bend (0-2) but head coach Steve Turner said the Lava Bears pose even more of a threat than when his team faced McNary and Jefferson.

Bend junior Nate Denney (5-10, 195) was impressive in last year’s win over the Black Tornado and is more of a complete running back than Turner said his team has faced thus far. Defensive lineman Lane Bays is another key player to watch on the other side of the ball.

North Medford junior Devin Bradd leads the Southwest Conference in rushing (333 yards on 36 carries) and scoring (seven TDs). Senior quarterback Brennan Stults has passed for 269 yards and three scores, with senior Jett Carpenter serving as a prime target with 11 catches for 174 yards and two TDs.

The Black Tornado has also gotten a jolt from senior Josh Baptiste and junior Chance Costanzo on both sides of the ball, with Costanzo involved in 12 tackles last week in a 62-30 rout of Jefferson with one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

ASHLAND AT RIDGEVIEW: Ashland senior quarterback Rieger Sayre is off to an outstanding start, passing for 593 yards and 10 touchdowns and running for another 171 yards on 10.7 yards per carry.

The Grizzlies (2-0) have averaged 518 yards and 52.5 points per game, with Logan Sanford serving as a primary perimeter target with 11 catches for 139 yards and four TDs.

Senior running back DaMario Watson has also provided a dual threat, running for 129 yards and one score and catching eight passes for 117 yards and three TDs.

Ridgeview enters the game winless at 0-2.

EAGLE POINT AT SPRINGFIELD: It may not last much longer given how volatile the state power rankings tend to be but at least for one week, Eagle Point enters Friday’s road game in the No. 1 spot with its home wins over Klamath Union and Redmond.

In those rankings, interestingly enough, Crater is No. 2 and Ashland No. 3.

Junior Lucas Meerten has served as the Eagles’ primary playmaker, catching eight passes for 171 yards and four scores and rushing for another 64 yards and a TD. Senior running back Justin McElory has been a steady influence for an EP offense that gains 314.5 yards and scores 31.5 points per game, with McElroy rushing for 199 yards and two TDs on 40 carries to take pressure off quarterback Kyler Kendrick, who passed for three scores last week and has five TD passes overall.

Springfield stands 1-1 and is coming off a 49-0 loss to Ashland where the Millers were limited to 64 yards of total offense.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Quarterback Trever Davis leads Crater against Thurston Friday.