In key MWL clash, No. 4 Crater crushes No. 5 Ashland
CENTRAL POINT — When push came to shove Friday night in a pivotal Midwestern League clash between state heavyweights Crater and Ashland, it was the host Comets who were able to supply the biggest push in front of an appreciative homecoming night crowd.
With fourth-ranked Crater dominating in the trenches, the Comets were able to easily distance themselves from the No. 5 Grizzlies for a third straight rout in the series, 48-13 at Dutch Meyer Field.
Crater (6-1, 3-0 MWL) amassed 645 yards of total offense and limited the high-octane Grizzlies (6-1, 2-1) to 291 yards — 176 below their average — to win by at least 28 points for a third consecutive year in the local rivalry.
“We wanted to challenge them to grind it out and eliminate the big plays,” said Ashland head coach Beau Lehnerz. “They had a few big plays but ultimately they just shoved us around the field. It was just smash-mouth football.”
Crater quarterback Trever Davis rushed 15 times for 116 yards and four touchdowns and fellow senior Gavin Acrey added 232 yards and one score on 25 carries as the Comets took to the ground to take control in the MWL South race.
Overall, Crater ran 53 times for 485 yards against an Ashland defense that had allowed only 252 total yards and 11 points per game entering the contest.
Here's a look at how the Comets were able to take control early on Friday:
“The run game was really successful,” said Davis, who also completed 10 of 21 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception by Eriq Rodriguez. “We weren’t really planning on it coming into the week because they run the same defense basically as us, but we just ran it down their throat.”
“The guys on the offensive line were huge tonight,” he added. “They were just all around good in everything they did.”
That offensive line includes seniors Crayton Gillispie, Gerritt Warner and Jacob Memmott and juniors Dawson Davis and Vincent Cottini. They helped pave the way for a 21-7 lead at halftime on two of Trever Davis’ TD runs (3 and 7 yards) and a 22-yard scoring strike to Chase Sherer.
“Trever made great decisions running the ball and he just kind of directed the whole offense for us,” said Crater coach Randy Waite of his dual-threat QB. “When he’s good, he’s just relaxed and doing that, breaking off big runs and getting out of bounds to keep himself healthy and then making big plays through the passing game, too.”
With rain falling throughout the second half, that group really got lathered up and allowed the Comets to play keepaway from the Grizzlies while also putting points on the board.
“We expected this,” said Trever Davis of the romp. “We knew it was going to be a battle at first but they haven’t really played anyone good, so they finally saw someone good.”
Lehnerz was extremely complimentary of Crater and its ability to control Friday’s matchup following a game he felt would be a battle but also one that would be on a more equal footing than what was on display. In terms of the Class 5A state power ranking, the Comets stood second and Ashland was third entering the game.
“We said all week that win, lose or draw this was going to be a reality check, and this was a smack in the face,” said Lehnerz. “We were riding high at 6-0 and thought we were the kings of the world and Crater put us in our place. It doesn’t mean the season’s over. We’ll go watch film and get better from this and get healthy and then move on to the next week and hopefully make a run to the playoffs.”
As much as Crater’s offense proved to be a thorn in Ashland’s side most of the night, the defensive effort was just as crippling for the Grizzlies. With defensive linemen Jimmy Jordahl and William Woitte helping set the tone up front with linebackers Tyler Ennis, Brady Brock and Caden Lasater, among others, the Comets were able to shut down star running back DaMario Watson and Ashland’s run game in general.
“They had outstanding pursuit,” said Lehnerz. “We tried to get to the edge a couple times and there were eight, nine or 10 guys there. They brought good enough pressure with three or four guys and they covered really well and challenged us, they just had a great game plan on both sides of the ball. Hopefully somewhere down the line we get another chance but tonight they had us.”
Ashland ran for only 45 yards on 12 carries, with quarterback Rieger Sayre posting 39 yards on five carries after scrambling away from pressure and Watson adding a 7-yard score that made it 28-13 with 4:09 to go in the third quarter.
Sayre also completed 19 of 36 passes for 246 yards, one 19-yard TD pass to Gabe Ekwall in the first quarter and one interception by Bruce Cwiklinski.
“I think we stopped their running game and then they were forced to be one-dimensional,” said Waite, “and with that we could actually get a little bit of pressure on (Sayre) to make him throw when he didn’t want to throw. He’s a heckuva quarterback but we thought if we could stop the run, we’d have a better shot at containing him and that’s what happened.”
Ekwall managed six catches for 94 yards — all in the first half — while Nolan Rinefort had three catches for 65 yards and led Ashland with 9.5 tackles.
C — Davis 3 run (Davis kick)
A — Ekwall 19 pass from Sayre (Rinefort kick)
C — Sherer 22 pass from Davis (Davis kick)
C — Davis 7 run (Davis kick)
C — Davis 2 run (Davis kick)
A — Watson 7 run (kick failed)
C — Acrey 28 run (Davis kick)
C — Davis 8 run (Davis kick)
C — Perez 25 run (pass failed)