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Comets, Eagles ready for road tilts

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Blake Eaton throws for a first down in a game against Grants Pass earlier this season.

Crater shook off a slow start one week ago but head coach Berk Brown is hoping that won’t need to be the case again today when the Comets head to Roseburg for Week 5.

Crater struggled to find traction last week against host Eagle Point until a fumble return by Cameron Kramer 19 seconds shy of halftime breathed new life into his team and created a 7-all tie.

“The first half, we didn’t play very well, that’s for sure,” said Brown of an eventual 28-7 win. “We played a little unmotivated and we had to kind of wake them up at halftime and make a couple adjustments, and then the kids came out with a little more energy. We played well in the second half, I was really happy about that, but we’ve got to start faster than we did.”

In other 6A/5A games tonight, North Medford and South Medford square off at Spiegelberg Stadium while Eagle Point is at Grants Pass.

Phoenix travels to play North Valley in 4A action, while 3A St. Mary’s hosts Douglas at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Crater (2-2) used three second-half touchdown connections between seniors Blake Eaton and Dawson Douglas to deny the Eagles, and that tandem expects to be key again at Finlay Field against a Roseburg squad that has done well to limit rushing attacks.

“Those two are on the same page, for sure,” Brown said of the Eaton-Douglas combo. “They’ve known each other literally their whole lives. Their dads are best friends and both coaches on staff, and those boys are in each other’s heads right now. They’ve thrown the ball to each other for 18 years and it’s really starting to click right now. It’s exciting to watch.”

Eaton leads the area with 859 yards on 76-for-126 passing, with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Not surprisingly, Douglas also is the top local receiver with a whopping 34 catches for 334 yards and five scores.

With the Comets losing all-state senior Trevor Jaasko to injury two weeks ago, as well as Eaton’s brother Brady, Douglas shouldered the load for his QB with 12 catches for 116 yards and those three TDs.

Despite being in his lone season as the starter after backing up Trever Davis, who led the Comets to the 5A state championship game in 2019, Blake Eaton has shown considerable poise and moxie in the pocket, as well as an ability to connect with targets on all levels.

With the Comets losing all-state left tackle Dawson Davis to a knee injury in its season opener and having to adjust the offensive line all season with a handful of newcomers, Brown isn’t the only one who has been impressed by Eaton’s play behind center.

“Blake has come a long way as a quarterback,” said the first-year head coach. “He’s gone from being unrecruited to now all the small colleges up here in the Northwest are starting to knock on his door, so we’re really excited about Blake’s progression.”

After sitting out last week, Brady Eaton will return to give his brother another option on the perimeter after Jaden Fliegel and Payton Anhorn did a good job of stepping up in the absence of him and Jaasko at Eagle Point. Fliegel now has six catches for 95 yards and Anhorn nine catches for 72 yards.

Combined with running backs Kramer and Angel Perez, Brown said the Comets will need all the firepower they can muster when it comes to combating Roseburg (0-3) at home.

“It’s never easy to travel up to Roseburg and play the Indians at home,” said Brown. “We’ve got to go in and be ready for a battle, for sure.”

With only two seniors on the roster, the Indians have struggled with youth and inexperience thus far but continue to show signs of improvement, especially on defense where sophomore nose guard Tiger Black has proven to be a problem each week.

“This Roseburg group on defense is absolutely scary,” added Brown. “They run kind of a three-man stemming, slanting, blitzing type of defense that can give an offense some absolute fits. And they play really hard; they play as hard as any defense that we’ve faced.”

Roseburg didn’t make things easy on North Medford last week but the Black Tornado simply was too good to be denied, building a 35-0 lead at halftime to induce a running clock in the second half that elicited only six possessions over the final 24 minutes.

Roseburg has utilized two different style quarterbacks thus far in junior Dominic Tatone, who is a definite running threat, and sophomore Evan Corbine, who is more apt to air it out.

EAGLE POINT AT GRANTS PASS: After a tough Week 2 loss against Mazama, which has proven to be quite a handful in subsequent wins over Banks and Thurston, Eagle Point has done a steady job of growing and competing for second-year head coach Erik Johnson.

While the Eagles (1-3) didn’t come up with a win last week against Crater, they definitely pushed their rivals to the limit by holding the Comets to 47 yards rushing and being outgained only 263-174 in total offense.

“I felt good about the game plan going in,” said Johnson. “I think what it boiled down to was both teams had opportunities and they made the most of them more than what we did.”

Running back David Brown continued a strong sophomore campaign with a 43-yard TD run in the first quarter of that game and finished with 111 yards on 19 carries. Brown has now run for 265 yards on 55 carries to help stabilize an Eagles offense that has been inconsistent through the air and committed five turnovers against the Comets.

Sophomore QB Anthony Milian was 5-for-11 passing for 59 yards with two interceptions last week and has completed 20 of 45 passes overall for 227 yards.

Defensively, the Eagles have leaned on inside linebacker Isaiah Hill to apply pressure on the quarterback and make plays in the running game. Hill had 13 tackles last week and has received solid support from senior Lucas Meerten and sophomore Wyatt Graves.

“I think our defense is definitely improving over the last two weeks,” said Johnson. “This will be another challenge, another test.”

Grants Pass (2-2) has shown the most balanced and prolific offense thus far in the area, averaging 406 yards overall with a nearly even split in rushing and passing.

Jayden Brown has anchored the ground game with 379 yards on 78 carries with seven TDs, with Spencer Sloan also coming on for 262 yards on 36 carries.

Grants Pass QB Hunter Gonzales has passed for 772 yards with eight TDs and five interceptions, leaning on the big-play ability of Devik Chiang (22.2 yards per catch) and Dante Haven (17 catches, 263 yards, three TDs) to help move the chains.

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