Defensive stand sends Crater seniors out on high note
CENTRAL POINT — The smile of satisfaction that crept across Jimmy Jordahl’s face as he watched his senior teammates gather for a celebratory post-game photo said it all for the Crater Comets Friday night.
As the exclamation point on a spring season many wondered would even take place, Crater was able to use a defensive stand deep in its own territory in the final two minutes to hold on to a 20-14 win over Canby at Dutch Meyer Field.
“To be honest it was scary because you want to give the seniors the best you possibly can,” the junior Jordahl said as he watched his teammates’ winning poses. “Even though we were right next to the end zone, the sideline just gave us all the morale to keep pushing and keep them out so that we can give the seniors that dream year that they wanted.”
From Jordahl continually stuffing any Cougar that came his way to the likes of linebackers Angel Perez, Caden Lasater and Jaden Fliegel, Crater (4-2) could not have asked for much more from a defense that already came into the contest averaging an area-best 266 yards and 13 points allowed.
The Comets limited Canby (3-3) to 41 yards of total offense in the first half and 164 overall, holding the Cougars at bay on three straight plays from the Crater 7-yard line to preserve the victory.
“It was a full defensive team performance,” said first-year Crater coach Berk Brown. “We prepared like it was a championship week and our guys showed up and played like it.”
Crater built a 13-0 lead behind touchdown runs from seniors Cameron Kramer (1 yard) and Angel Perez (3 yards) before Canby was able to answer with a TD run by quarterback Zackary Markell with six minutes to go in the first half.
Undaunted, Crater marched 75 yards to reclaim its two-score cushion, using a 43-yard connection from quarterback Blake Eaton to fellow senior Payton Anhorn and a leaping 20-yard grab by Brady Eaton to set up maybe the best catch of all as Fliegel soared over a pair of defenders to haul in a 20-yard TD pass to cap the drive.
“I hit him kind of late across the middle so there were two guys in front of him,” said Blake Eaton, “but he jumped up and made a great catch for me. I really appreciate him, he’s come a long way and really helped us out this year.”
Eaton completed 16 of 20 passes for 230 yards in the first half but the Crater offense bogged down in the second half, with the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder completing only 3 of 12 passes for 16 yards in the final 24 minutes.
With the offense struggling to put together extended drives, the second half seemed to play out almost entirely on the Crater side of the field but the Comets bowed their backs and only allowed a 30-yard TD strike from Markell to Kyle Sandner with 7 ½ minutes to go in the game.
On the fateful final drive, Markell guided Canby to the Crater 7 with a handful of runs and a key fourth-down completion to Sandner. Sandner was stuffed by Lasater on second down, saw his pass to the end zone sail too long on third down and, on fourth down, tried to roll left but was thrown off by instant pressure from Lasater and subsequently slipped to the ground as Perez shot in to cover him.
The stop resulted in an exuberant release from the Crater sideline, which seemed to be holding its breath for the better part of the final quarter.
“It felt amazing,” Jordahl said of Crater’s game-clinching stop. “Throughout my entire high school football career, that is the craziest I’ve ever felt.”
A defensive coach by heart, the final series definitely was appreciated by Brown.
“We came out hot and got the lead early and were able to just hold on there in the second half,” said the coach. “The defense came up big with that red-zone stop in the fourth quarter. We knew we could bring some pressure and disrupt them in the backfield with our speed and athleticism and that proved to be the difference in the game there late.”
Anhorn finished with a host of tackles to go with six catches for 80 yards, while Dawson Douglas hauled in five passes for 97 yards and Brady Eaton had four catches for 49 yards.
CRA — Kramer 1 run (kick blocked)
CRA — Perez 3 run (Bl. Eaton kick)
CAN — Markell 4 run (Santiago-Cruz kick)
CRA — Fliegel 20 pass from Bl. Eaton (Bl. Eaton kick)
CAN — Sandner 30 pass from Markell (Santiago-Cruz kick)
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry