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Crater aims to get back on track

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Comets welcome Churchill on Friday; Eagle Point travels to Willamette

With only seven seniors on his team’s roster, Crater football coach Berk Brown said he knew there would come a time this season that his team would experience some growing pains.

That time, unfortunately, was last Friday during a 42-14 romp by visiting Mazama.

How the Comets respond will be the real point of focus this week as Crater plays host to Churchill in a Midwestern League contest Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Dutch Meyer Field.

Eagle Point plays at Willamette in other 5A action Friday, with Ashland on a bye week, while 4A Phoenix is at Elmira.

Class 3A contests include Pleasant Hill against St. Mary’s at U.S. Cellular Community Park, while Cascade Christian returns from a weeklong COVID hiatus to play at Yreka in California.

“We showed our youth last Friday,” said Brown. “When you have a short week to prepare for a well-coached team, and especially a team that runs the type of offense that Mazama does, you have to be disciplined and we weren’t disciplined last Friday night.

“We gave up a bunch of yards and then we didn’t hold onto the ball at all on offense. You put those two things together against a really well-coached, hard-nosed football team, that’s going to be the end result. We’ve taken some time this week to kind of recalibrate and focus on the fundamentals again.”

Crater (1-1, 1-0 MWL) committed three costly turnovers and amassed only 140 yards of total offense in a game that saw the Vikings roll to 333 yards on the ground.

“We’ve got to build some confidence in our young team right now,” said Brown. “When you take a shellacking like that, for a 15- or 16-year-old kid, it’s hard to bounce back from that. So far this week, though, our kids have shown up and worked their tails off.”

Crater senior Caden Lasater provided a bright spot last week with his 30-yard touchdown run and 80-yard kickoff return for the Comets’ lone scores. Lasater finished with nearly two-thirds of Crater’s yards gained, and has now run for 160 yards on 32 carries to go with 68 yards on five receptions.

The Comets have also gotten good dual-action play on offense from sophomore Kayden Gardner, while sophomore quarterback Shane Wood will look to rebound from a rough outing against Mazama that saw him fumble twice and throw one interception.

Lasater and company will again have their hands full Friday in a Churchill team that has a size advantage in the trenches and a host of senior playmakers, led by quarterback Chace Pence, receiver Riley Van Camp and running back Austin Mills.

“They bring in a ton of size and a style of football to where they can smack you in the mouth and then they’ll turn around and throw it deep,” said Brown. “They’re very explosive.”

Mills ran for four touchdowns and about 100 yards in a season-opening win over Eagle Point, while Van Camp got behind the defense on a play-action pass from Pence for a 75-yard score. With 6-foot-1, 220-pound defensive lineman Braden Rohde leading the charge, the Lancers are also very stout on that side of the ball.

“On defense, this is probably one of the hardest-hitting teams we’ll face all year long,” said Brown, “so we have to match their physicality from the jump.”

Last week, however, Churchill ran into a buzzsaw in Marshfield and suffered a 57-6 loss that the Lancers will be determined to put behind them Friday.

EAGLE POINT AT WILLAMETTE: After repeatedly making things difficult for itself with turnovers in Week 1, Eagle Point settled down well last week and turned the tables with five takeaways of its own in a comfortable win over Springfield.

The Eagles (1-1 MWL) will look to build on that effort against Willamette (0-2, 0-1 MWL).

Running back David Brown, a 6-foot, 160-pound junior, has provided a stabilizing force with his steady running thus far for EP. Brown has carried 33 times for 177 yards and two TDs, and also made himself a threat out of the backfield with nine catches for 55 yards.

Quarterback Caiden Lacey continues to put up big numbers in his return to the Eagle Point sidelines after two seasons at North Medford. Lacey has completed 41 of 63 passes for 527 yards. He had four interceptions in the opener but none this past week, with two TD passes in each game this season.

Senior Jimmie Copeland has especially been a reliable target on the perimeter, hauling in nine passes for 212 yards to complement junior Wyatt Graves, who has 10 catches for 101 yards.

Overall, the Eagles are averaging 372 yards and 26 points per game under head coach Erik Johnson.

Defensively, Ethan Moody and Josh Bayne came up with leading efforts last week against Springfield, and the Eagles are allowing 216 total yards per game.

Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Crater's Caden Lasater sprints to the end zone for a score during last Friday’s game against Mazama. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Crater's Kayden Gardner pushes for a first down during the first quarter last Friday against Mazama. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Eagle Point’s Jimmie Copeland, shown during a preseason practice, has been a key factor in the Eagles’ passing game thus far. Photo by Denise Baratta