Crater falls despite career night by Acrey
CENTRAL POINT — Friday’s marquee matchup between two of the state’s top Class 5A football programs lived up to its billing here at Dutch Meyer Field, but that was of little consolation to the upset-minded Crater Comets.
Third-ranked Crater went toe-to-toe with No. 1 Thurston through four physically exhausting quarters before finally falling prey to the reigning state champion Colts, 31-20.
The Colts (3-0) used a pair of fourth-quarter field goals by Gavin Levesque — the last with four minutes to play — to ultimately put too much distance between them and the gritty Comets (2-1).
“I thought we matched their physicality, which was one of the keys, but when they needed to make a play they made a play,” said Crater head coach Randy Waite, “and we had a couple slip through and didn’t make the play when we had to. It could’ve been a little bit different, but they’re a good football team and we made them earn it.”
Crater used a career-high night from senior running back Gavin Acrey and some stout play in the trenches on both sides of the ball to counter Thurston’s prolific attack.
Acrey raced to 245 yards rushing on 17 carries, scoring touchdowns of 45 and 61 yards to highlight a night that should have left him satisfied but really didn’t given his competitive nature.
“A win would’ve been a lot nicer,” Acrey said of reaching a career mark, “but they outplayed us tonight and they got the win.”
Thurston quarterback Cade Crist proved to be a thorn in Crater’s side throughout the night despite a blend of good defensive pressure and coverage. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound standout completed 28 of 41 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns.
“We mixed it up a lot and I thought that was good,” said Waite of his defense. “Sometimes (Crist) had too much time to throw and found holes, but for the most part they did a great job.”
Thurston senior tailback Wesley Kommer didn’t let the fact that his right hand was wrapped up to form a club slow him down, rushing for a 6-yard TD to open the scoring after a scoreless first quarter. Kommer finished with 99 yards rushing on 22 carries.
A 4-yard connection between Crist and Kyle Casley allowed the Colts to take a 13-0 advantage with 5:55 to go in the second quarter, but Crater was able to answer back in unlikely fashion.
After punting the ball away, Comets senior Trever Davis was able to pry the ball away from returner Caleb Scott and run the ball back to the Thurston 45-yard line. On the next play, Acrey bounced outside to the right sideline for his first score.
“That was a huge momentum change,” Acrey said of Davis’ takeaway. “We needed to keep that momentum going but it changed quicker than we wanted and they got momentum back.”
An interception by Dawson Muggy later allowed Thurston to go up 19-7 with 1:10 left in the first half on a 4-yard TD pass from Crist to Kommer.
Improbably, Crater found itself in scoring position moments later when Acrey took a handoff, saw a slight seam and then raced down the Thurston sideline for 74 yards to the Colts’ 16 before being taken down.
“I saw an opening and then I hit it and there was no one there,” Acrey said of his longest run of the night. “One guy caught me but my legs were like 100 pounds by then.”
All the excitement from the Crater crowd was silenced moments later, however, when Davis’ pass from the 4-yard line went through a receivers hands and into the waiting arms of Casley for the second interception of the night inside the final 30 seconds of the half.
Instead of letting that sour their mood, the Comets were able to stun the Colts a little to open the second half when Acrey found the middle plugged up but scooted to the outside and again raced downfield, this time with no one touching him en route to a 61-yard score that made it 19-14.
“I give a lot of credit to Crater,” said Thurston head coach Justin Starck. “Their coaching staff has done a really nice job and those kids play with great spirit and they’re a really good football team that I think will play in the postseason.”
“(Acrey) cut back on us twice and got loose and did a really nice job,” he added. “Our linebacker twice over-pursued and wasn’t able to play the cutback. We’ve just got to keep working and learn from it and improve.”
The teams traded short TD passes, 7 yards from Crist to Casley and 10 yards from Davis to Dawson Douglas, to round out the third quarter.
The fourth quarter offered several opportunities for Crater to close the gap but the Comets were unable to connect on some deep passes, which may have been the story of the game. Crater was inches away from a handful of potential touchdowns throughout the night on Davis’ offerings. He finished 13 of 35 for 110 yards.
“I felt like we could kind of control the tempo with our runs and it would open up our passing more,” said Acrey, “but it just didn’t work.”
Trevor Jaasko caught four passes for 72 yards, while Douglas had three receptions for 23 yards and Acrey hauled in five passes for 22 yards.
T — Kommer 6 run (Levesque kick)
T — Casley 4 pass from Crist (kick failed)
C — Acrey 45 run (Davis kick)
T — Kommer 4 pass from Crist (run failed)
C — Acrey 61 run (Davis kick)
T — Casley 7 pass from Crist (run failed)
C — Douglas 10 pass from Davis (kick failed)
T — FG Levesque 23
T — FG Levesque 33