Crater holds on late to beat Churchill
For three quarters at Dutch Meyer Field on Friday night, points were at a premium.
Then the fourth quarter arrived. And with it, the touchdowns followed.
Seniors Caden Lasater and Javon Smith scored rushing touchdowns and Crater was able to hold off Churchill’s last-minute attempt to tie the game to record a thrilling 15-13 win in Midwestern League action.
“I think No. 1 put us on his back and he wanted the ball,” Crater head coach Berk Brown said of Lasater. “He wanted the ball and we know he’s our best player. We know, regardless of the situation, he’s always finding the seams, always fighting for extra yards at the end of the play. When times get tough, (offensive coordinator Trent Thompson) knew who to get the ball to and Caden had a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter to allow us to seal the deal.”
All three of the touchdowns happened in the fourth quarter.
Crater (2-1, 2-0 MWL) took a 9-0 lead with just over nine minutes to go when Lasater scampered in from 17 yards out.
Churchill, however, responded with its first touchdown of the night, a fade into the back corner of the end zone from quarterback Chace Pence to 6-foot-4 receiver Riley Van Camp to cut the Comets’ lead to 9-7.
But the Comets had one more touchdown in them, as Smith took the handoff from Lasater after coming in motion as a receiver and ran it in from 2 yards out.
The PAT was blocked, meaning it remained a one-possession game.
Churchill (1-2, 1-1) marched right down the field, seeing its 80-yard drive capped off on a 2-yard run up the middle by senior running back Austin Mills with 56 seconds left. Down 15-13, the Lancers were forced to go for two in an attempt to tie things up, but the throw from Pence to Van Camp was knocked away.
Lasater recovered the ensuing onside kick, allowing the Comets to kneel the ball down twice and secure the win.
“Churchill just kicked it to the wrong guy. They kicked it to our best player,” Brown said. “Once Lasater secured that thing and we got the ‘W’ with the two kneel downs, it was a huge relief because we’re so young and to have this young of a group battle the way they did shows the process we’re going through on a weekly basis that our kids are completely bought in to our philosophy — especially after a tough loss last week. It was a huge relief, and it made me vindicated that we have our kids on the right path right now.”
Smith, who last played football in the eighth grade and had previously played as a receiver this season, got his first-ever start at quarterback Friday night as Brown looked to shake things up. Sophomore Shane Wood had started Crater’s first two games of the season against North Bend and Mazama.
“We decided to make that move because Javon just provides a little more athleticism and a little bit more experience — not necessarily in football, but in life and athletics,” Brown said. “He’s a two-year varsity player on the basketball team and he’s calm, cool and collected. He’s been an unbelievable leader since he joined the football team, so when we were looking at our football team we just wanted to add another dimension. With his ability to scramble, get out of the pocket and run some zone read types of plays, we just thought it was the best move for our team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the kid, step into a role like that and learn the position in four days and come out and play like he did is a pretty big deal.”
The first half had a little bit of everything — except for points.
The two teams combined for four turnovers in the first two quarters, including a fumble recovery by Crater’s Tony Perez after Churchill got in the red zone thanks in large part by a 62-yard pitch-and-catch from Pence to Van Camp.
Crater, however, couldn’t capitalize and saw Churchill block the punt attempt to again get field position just yards away from the end zone.
Crater forced five Churchill turnovers in the game, including a second-half fumble forced by senior defensive lineman Jimmy Jordahl and recovered by junior linebacker Tony Dowens.
“Overall, our defense since I’ve been here has just been gritty. They’ll bend, but they rarely do break,” Brown said. “To have, in the first half, a goal line stand and two red zone stands and end up with zero points, and then there in the fourth quarter to come up big on the two-point play, it shows they’re not going to quit regardless of the situation.”
Cra — Safety
Cra — Lasater 17 run (Perez kick)
Chu — Van Camp 2 pass from C. Pence (H. Pence kick)
Cra — Smith 2 run (kick blocked)
Chu — Mills 2 run (C. Pence pass failed)
Reach Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.