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Eagles, Comets eager for MWL tilts

Ashland forced to forfeit Week 5 matchup with Mazama due to lack of players

When something is working for your football team, why venture away from that?

That’s been the dilemma for Eagle Point football coach Erik Johnson these past few weeks.

The fourth-year head coach would like to see his Eagles show a little more balance on offense, but darn it if senior running back David Brown and his steady offensive line just won’t let that happen.

“We just do what we do and we go from there and with what the defense is allowing,” said Johnson. “We’ve got to get our passing game clicking, and we’re always working on every facet to try to be as balanced as we can, but when you have David Brown breaking off big runs, it’s tough to go away from that.”

Churning out one monster game after another, Brown leads the Class 5A level with 835 yards and 16 touchdowns on 96 carries entering Friday’s Midwestern League matchup against Willamette. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Eagle Stadium, with EP at 3-1 overall and 2-0 in league and the Wolverines not far behind at 2-2 and 1-1.

“What he’s done, with all that experience he’s had, he’s really come through for us,” said Johnson of Brown. “I know that he contributes a lot of that to his offensive line. They’re blocking very well and working as a unit.”

Also in 5A action Friday, Crater (1-3, 0-2 MWL) will look to get back on track at home against North Eugene (1-3, 0-2).

In a marquee 3A showdown Friday, Far West League co-leaders South Umpqua (4-0), which is ranked No. 4, and St. Mary’s (4-0) square off at 7 p.m. at Lithia & Driveway Fields.

Fellow unbeaten FWL squad Cascade Christian (4-0), the state’s No. 1 team at the 3A level, plays at North Valley and Phoenix plays host to Brookings-Harbor.

As much as Johnson’s philosophy is to establish the run, he’s also looking to utilize quarterback Bryton Livingston a little more in the coming weeks to provide for a little more balance. In last week’s 42-21 win over North Eugene, Livingston was an efficient 6-for-8 for 132 yards, including a 55-yard TD reception by Brown.

Coming off a 4-4 season that saw the Eagles finish just outside the state playoffs, Johnson said there’s definitely been a good vibe among the EP camp after this year’s solid start. Eagle Point lost three games by a touchdown or less a year ago.

“It’s definitely different than the past few years,” Johnson said of the team mood. “Practice is a little bit different with a little more confidence, and you’re always looking for that this time of year.”

Willamette quarterback Ryan Prescott tried to rally his team last week against Churchill with touchdown passes of 60 and 90 yards in the third quarter but the Lancers were able to hold on for a 26-14 victory.

Prescott passed for 270 yards overall, with Myles Brooks notching 140 of those yards receiving.

Eagle Point senior Nathan Cordova had a sack and two tackles for loss last week, with Hayden Weaver posting a team-high eight tackles to limit the Highlanders’ potent attack to 263 total yards.

“Nathan Cordova on the offensive and defensive lines has really stepped up,” said Johnson. “He’s gotten a couple sacks the past couple weeks on the defensive side and has really just tied that offensive line together.”

NORTH EUGENE AT CRATER: The slippery slope that Crater has been playing on the past few weeks hopefully levels out Friday night as the Comets seek to snap a three-game losing skid at Dutch Meyer Field.

“Every week you want to win,” said Crater coach Berk Brown, “but we need to get some momentum going. This is what I’d tell our kids to be a must-win game, just to get back on the right foot.”

Injuries and turnovers have slowed the Comets’ progress since a season-opening thumping of North Bend, but Crater hopes to get back key cogs Kayden Gardner, Luke Higginson and Brady Robinson on Friday.

Sophomore Ben Higginson will continue at QB for the time being after taking over for junior Shane Wood, who suffered a shoulder injury. The timetable for Wood’s return is still to be determined, but the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Higginson showed moxie in trying to lead Crater back from a 35-6 deficit in last week’s eventual 42-21 loss at Thurston.

“Ben knows the offense just as well as anyone does,” said Brown. “His biggest thing is the game is moving too fast for him right now, but getting to play Thurston, he saw what good football looks like at the 5A level and I think he’s beginning to figure it out and put it all together.”

Brown hopes to continue to get Andrew Kelly and Aidan Chenoweth plenty of carries to stabilize some things for the Comets, with Scott Price showing his playmaking talents a week ago by catching a 4-yard TD pass and then adding a 75-yard punt return for a score.

“Our kids never stopped fighting and that was the thing I was most proud of last week,” said Brown.

North Eugene QB Devon Anderson offers a dual-threat challenge this week for the Crater defense.

ASHLAND AT MAZAMA: Ashland has been forced to forfeit its Week 5 game against Big Sky Conference co-leader Mazama due to a lack of players brought on by rampant illness within the Grizzlies program.

Ashland (1-4, 0-3 Big Sky) was short-handed during its loss last week to Hidden Valley and things did not get better during this week, with double-digit players out sick and unable to practice. The lack of numbers forced Ashland’s hand.

The Vikings, ranked No. 1 at the 4A level, now move to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in league.

Have a story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or via Twitter @Kris_Henry

Photo by Denise Baratta. Eagle Point running back David Brown leads the 5A level through four weeks with 835 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground.