Team moves the ball at will during portions of Saturday scrimmage

Pleased would be just one of the adjectives that the Crook County High School football coaching staff used Saturday night following the conclusion of the team’s annual Blue & Gold Scrimmage.

“Our first string guys and the guys that rotated in with our first string were extremely impressive,” said Head Coach Ryan Cochran. “Obviously we found lots of things that we need to work on, but overall effort was there. Our freshmen looked really solid and our varsity on both sides of the ball looked pretty impressive.”Photo Credit: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY DOUG SMITH - Blake Bartels stiff-arms a defensive player en route to a big run during the annual Football Blue & Gold Scrimmage Saturday night. Bartels is expected to be the Cowboys' starting quarterback this year.

Cochran noted that the first-string offense was able to move the ball seemingly at will, while the starters also looked strong on defense.

“It will be interesting to see what actually happens,” he said. Our varsity offense moved the ball extremely easily and our defense was pretty unstoppable. So we will see if that is because of our number twos or if it’s because of how good the starters are. We won’t know for sure until we start seeing some live bullets.”

Cochran added that although there are still some questions he is excited about what he saw from the team at the scrimmage and in practice.

“Our first string and the guys that rotated in with our first string were extremely impressive,” he said. “They executed extremely well at times. We still have a lot of work to do to clean up things, but I?was very impressed across the board from our JV guys to our freshmen guys. It was pretty impressive for only a week of practice.”

Although the crowd at this year’s Blue & Gold Scrimmage was down slightly from the past, Cochran was still pleased with the turnout.

“It was kind of expected that we would be down a little because of work on the track and no one even knowing if we would be able to play or not until just a week before the event,” he said. “We started it off and introduced all the seniors to the crowd — both football and cheerleading — and by the time kickoff was there, we had a steady stream of spectators coming in.”

Blake Bartels looked impressive at quarterback during the scrimmage as did receiver Ricky Hernandez.

“Hernandez looked really good,” Cochran said. “He broke some big plays catching the ball. And Bartels looked great last night. I am extremely impressed with how much he’s been able to improve throwing the ball and as the manager of our offense.”

He was also happy with the play of all six running backs that the team used.

“They all have different strengths,” he said. “Some have more speed that can get around the edge and we’ve got some of them between the tackles that can plug.”Photo Credit: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY DOUG SMITH
 - Zach Smith levels a defensive player as Cole Ovens runs through a gaping hole during the Cowboys' scrimmage on Saturday. Smith is the team's starting center while Ovens is one of a solid core of returning running backs.

The Cowboys should get even stronger at both the receiver and running back positions later in the year as Ryder Shinkle, a starting receiver a year ago, and Colbran Meeker, last year’s starting tailback, are still recovering from injuries suffered earlier this year.

Not only is Cochran pleased with what he saw at the scrimmage Saturday, he is also excited about what he has been seeing in practice.

“The work ethic has been unbelievable,” he said. “We’ve tried to turn more of it over to our older guys — letting them control the team. It’s awesome that the older guys are pushing our younger guys to be better in a positive way. They understand the big picture with helping those younger guys out and they are the ones pushing and saying that we need to do more conditioning.”

He added that the senior players have insisted on the team running even more conditioning than the coaching staff has asked for.

“We get done with conditioning and the older guys are like, ‘hey let’s go, we are going to do two more,'” Cochran said. “It’s not often that you see something like that. They are doing what I would think a championship football team does with their leadership.”

Although he is pleased with the leadership of all the upperclassmen, Cochran singled out the efforts of Trevor Rasmussen and Zach Smith.

“I don’t think that you will ind much better kids than T-Razz and Smitty,” he said. “They just keep pushing and helping the younger kids in a positive way. It’s pretty awesome to see.”

The Cowboys, who finished last year with a 5-4 record, open their season on Friday with a 6 p.m. jamboree at Cottage Grove. Among the teams that are there are Tri Valley league rivals Molalla and Corbett, as well as host Cottage Grove.

“We are excited to see a little bit of our league and I hear that Cottage Grove is supposed to be pretty good, so there should be some good competition.”

Even though the Cowboys still have some work to do, Cochran believes that they will be ready for the jamboree.

“If we had to, we could play tomorrow,” he said. “We are starting on Monday trying to clean things up and add some little things.

The first full football game of the year will be the following week, Friday, Sept. 5, when the Cowboys host the Sweet Home Huskies in a 7 p.m. contest.

“We are just focusing one game at a time,” Cochran said. “We are going to go out and have fun playing football, but execute and play hard. We preach effort and if nothing else I want to come away from the Sweet Home game showing our community how we play Cowboy football. We’ll take it one step at a time.”

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