Cowboys have strong finish to season


Crook County wins five of last six games, but still fails to reach playoffs

by: LON AUSTIN - Mike Irwin throws a pass during the Cowboys victory over the Madras White Buffalos earlier this year. The Cowboys finished the season with a 5-4 record and were 5-1 over the last six games of the season. Irwin, a freshman is one of several key players that return next season as the Cowboys make their Tri-Valley Conference debut.

After struggling out of the gate, the Crook County Cowboy football team came back to win five of their last six games.

The Cowboys lost their first three contests and it looked like their season might be over before it had hardly begun. However, the Crook County players held a meeting following the third loss and things changed dramatically.

"Our kids got into a big meeting and talked things out and came out with a different fire under them," Head Coach Ryan Cochran said. "When you are 0-3, their are two ways you can go. You can either go down the toilet or get better. We were really proud of them and how they actually seized the situation and took charge."

The Cowboys rebounded to defeat the Madras White Buffalos 51-13 that week, then defeated Madison 49-0, and Redmond 35-7.

The Cowboys then lost to the Ridgeview Ravens, who are currently in the state semifinals, 12-3 before winning their final two games of the season.

With a 5-4 record and a power rankings of 23rd, it looked like the Cowboys would earn a play-in game. However, 31st-ranked Estacada finished third in their league, earning an automatic berth and knocking the Cowboys out of post-season play.

"It wasn't fair for our lads when you see a 31st-ranked team go in there ahead of you and then just get hammered," Cochran said. "We were in the situation where we knew that we had to win one of our last two games and then we win two of two and we are still out."

Worrying about earning an at-large berth is something that the Cowboys won't have to do next year. Crook County will join the Tri-Valley Conference, the same conference that Estacada plays in. Play-in games are expected to be a thing of the past with the top two teams in each league expected to earn playoff berths.

"It takes that guess factor out and we are in a real league," Cochran said. "It's something that we fought for, for so long. "We want to go into a league and compete in the league for a league championship and to go on to state where there's no guessing game with RPI score or any of that."

The Cowboys have a solid core of players returning next year including most of their skill position players. However, the team does lose several players to graduation including some linemen who will be sorely missed.

"Losing any of our seniors is going to be difficult, but we are excited about our next class that's coming up," he said. "We are losing two or three solid linemen and that's the core of any football team. We were definitely disappointed with how the season ended, but at our last meeting, they were real fired up and this is not going to happen next year. So that's a lot for us to build on."