Crater makes history
EUGENE — Two best friends on a roster built on water-tight camaraderie.
For all the incredible plays on both sides of the field in what would be a Class 5A football state semifinals nail-biter, the difference came down to a pair of Crater players who were more ecstatic about the other’s game-clinching play than their own here Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
Crater’s Brady Brock stunned West Albany with a 69-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the contest with less than five minutes to play and fellow senior linebacker Tyler Ennis iced the 30-24 triumph with an interception to vault the Comets into their first-ever state championship final.
“Crater just made history tonight and I’m so proud of my teammates and so proud of everyone,” said Brock, who also had a game-high 10 tackles. “This is a pretty powerful moment for me.”
The same emotion poured out from Ennis, who had seven tackles but will forever be remembered for his diving interception to halt West Albany’s last push with 1:14 to go in Crater territory.
“That was like a movie moment right there,” said Ennis. “I honestly didn’t see it coming but my body moved on its own and I got it and we won the game. Unbelievable.”
“It’s like a fairy tale right now,” he added. “It’s crazy, that was such a wild ending. For two linebackers and best friends to get those last two plays that got us ahead, that feels really good. It’s just amazing to know we’re the first Crater team to go to the state championship.”
The second-seeded Comets (11-1) will face a familiar foe next Saturday in top-seeded Thurston, which was a 44-14 winner over No. 4 Silverton in the game that preceded Crater’s historic triumph. Thurston (12-0) won 31-20 in a regular-season matchup at Crater.
Next week’s championship game will be played at 5 p.m. at Roseburg High School.
Crater was its own worst enemy with miscues that allowed third-seeded West Albany (11-1) to snap its streak of shutouts, ending in 17 1/2 quarters, but the Comets remained resolute to the end behind a defense that allowed only 297 yards and an offense that saw Gavin Acrey churn out 179 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
On the offensive play that mattered most, however, it was Brock in the backfield to spell Acrey late in the fourth quarter. A simple dash right behind the sealing efforts of Jacob Memmott and Gerritt Warner on a third-and-four play from the Crater 31-yard line and suddenly Brock was off to the races.
“We needed to get Gavin a breather because he’s working hard always and I don’t know, we just had amazing blocks to the outside and I just took it all the way,” said Brock. “It just felt amazing.”
The play also seemed to catch the Bulldogs, who entered the game with the state’s leading defense at 7.7 points and 175 yards allowed per game, completely off guard.
“I think when they saw Gavin off the field they thought there’s no way he could do that and they kind of slept a little bit,” said Crater head coach Randy Waite, “but, yeah, Brady can do that.”
And it was completely in Crater’s character to give him the opportunity.
“We’ve prided ourselves on it doesn’t matter who gets the glory or who scores and spreading the ball around,” said Waite, “and there you can see Brady Brock breaks one. The first time he carries the ball and first time he’s in at running back all game and he did what he does. We’re just fortunate we have guys that can do that.”
Brock’s game-altering run brought an already energetic Crater sideline to a frenzy, and left them only one defensive stand away from the title game.
“Once he scored we said whoever plays harder right now for these next four minutes is going to win the game,” said Ennis, “and we played as hard as we could and came out on top.”
West Albany drove to the Crater 42-yard line before quarterback Carson Van Dyke got instant pressure and saw his pass across the middle tipped and then eventually find a home on Ennis’ arms.
“Tyler’s one of my best friends out there and seeing that interception, that was amazing,” said Brock. “Just to see my friend come through like that, that was special.”
Waite said he was more than comfortable having the game in the hand of his defense, which has been stout in its own right in allowing only 9.5 points and 236 yards per game entering the semifinals. Defensive linemen Jimmy Jordahl, William Woitte and Jacob Chenoweth were active all game, and linebackers James Ruth and Caden Lasater each finished with nine tackles.
“They battled and made a play at the end,” said Waite of his defense. “We had bad eyes on their one touchdown here in the second half but other than that I thought they competed and they played well.”
The Comets’ defense was especially impressive given some of the poor situations it was placed in over and over Saturday. West Albany was able to take advantage of two Crater turnovers and one failed fourth-down fake punt attempt — all in Comets territory — to score all 17 of its points in the first half to take a one-point lead into the break.
“I was disappointed in our ball control,” said Waite, whose team lost two fumbles with one interception that bounced off a Crater receiver and into the Bulldogs’ hands. “I thought we gave them all three of their first-half scores and we gave them their second-half score, too. Those are things we’ve got to shore up. I think our kids were really antsy but then we got the one turnover that we needed right there at the end so that’s all that matters now.”
West Albany senior standout Porter Phillips supplied the first big play of the day, ripping the ball away from Dawson Douglas as he fought for more yardage and then recovering the fumble to put the Bulldogs on the Crater 48. Five plays later, Connor Wolfe scored on a 3-yard fly sweep to make it 7-0 with 5:38 to go in the first quarter.
The Comets appeared to have an answer on a 19-yard connection from Trever Davis to Trevor Jaasko, but a penalty negated the score on the ensuing drive and Crater had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Davis.
A solid defensive stand by the Comets allowed for them to get the ball back and they only needed one play to take the lead as Acrey darted to the left sideline and then raced untouched thanks to some nice downfield blocking for a 77-yard touchdown for a 10-7 edge with 1:38 left in the first quarter.
After the Comets again held West Albany without a first down thanks to nice pressure on Bulldogs quarterback Carson Van Dyke by Jordahl and Woitte, Crater saw its drive stall. On fourth-and-three from their own 43, the Comets attempted a little trickery with a pass by Davis, Crater’s regular punter, that just missed connecting with Bruce Cwiklinski downfield and didn’t garner a potential pass interference penalty.
Five plays later, the Bulldogs regained the lead on a 3-yard fly sweep by Caeden Zamora to make it 14-10 with 7:49 to go in the second quarter. Phillips provided a 36-yard run to set up the score.
Undaunted, Crater marched 68 yards on a drive highlighted by Acrey’s hard running with another answer when Davis hooked up with Jaasko for a 10-yard TD strike. A wide-left extra point attempt by Davis left the score at 16-14 with 4:36 to go until halftime.
The Comets’ defense forced another three-and-out and appeared destined to at least run the clock out from there when yet another miscue set them back as Davis’ backward pass to Chase Sherer couldn’t be completed and West Albany’s Chase Bauserman pounced on the fumble at the Crater 33-yard line.
West Albany was able to trickle down to the 11 in the final two minutes to set Seth Jackson up for a half-ending 28-yard field goal that had just enough for a 17-16 advantage.
The Bulldogs opened the third quarter with back-to-back scoring drives, with Zamora breaking coverage for a 26-yard score from Van Dyke, but Crater again stayed true and marched 67 yards in eight plays to answer on a 3-yard TD run by Acrey.
With 6:05 still left in the third quarter, the Comets then took their chance to tie the game at 24-all and did just that on a 2-point conversion pass from Davis to Douglas.
The back-and-forth affair settled down after that, with Ruth managing a key third-down sack to halt one West Albany drive and then Ennis making a tackle short of the marker to deny a fourth-down effort at the Crater 13 with 7:03 to play.
“We knew it was going to be a battle, West Albany’s a great team,” said Brock. “We just had to hang in there.”
WA — Wolfe 3 run (Jackson kick)
C — FG Davis 38
C — Acrey 77 run (Davis kick)
WA — Zamora 3 run (Jackson kick)
C — Jaasko 10 pass from Davis (kick failed)
WA — FG Jackson 28
WA — Zamora 26 pass from Van Dyke (Jackson kick)
C — Acrey 3 run (Douglas pass from Davis)
C — Brock 69 run (kick failed)
West Albany — Phillips 19-121, Cehrs 8-30, Van Dyke 5-7, Zamora 1-3.
Crater — Acrey 22-179, Brock 1-69, Davis 6-33, Sherer 1-1.
West Albany — Van Dyke 10-18-1 131.
Crater — Davis 9-14-1 99.
West Albany — Zamora 5-84, Bowers 3-31, Phillips 1-8, Wolfe 1-8.
Crater — Jaasko 3-57, Douglas 3-25, Sherer 2-14, Amoson 1-3.