The Crook County Cowboys took care of business Friday night, whipping the visiting Ridgeview Ravens 39-15 in the opening game of the year for both teams.
"We hang our hat on blue collar," Crook County head coach Cochran told his team following the game. "That showed tonight. We got in a little bit of a grind for a while, but we kept plugging. Great things happen to teams that work hard."
It looked like the Ravens were going to move the ball at will against the Cowboys at the start of the game.
Ridgeview took the opening kickoff, then took the ball on an nine-play drive all the way to the Crook County 18-yard line. However, Ridgeview came up short on fourth and short and the Cowboys took over.
The drive was emblematic of what would happen all night.
The Ravens were able to move the ball at will between the 20-yard lines, but struggled to score once they were in the red zone.
In fact, five times during the course of the game they entered the red zone and failed to come away with any points.
Crook County responded with a clock-eating drive of their own, moving the ball 82 yards in 10 plays, finally scoring on an 8-yard run by Clayton Berman. The kick failed, but with 2:42 remaining in the first quarter the Cowboys held a 6-0 lead.
The drive set the tone for the remainder of the game. Each time the Cowboys were able to generate a sustained drive they were able to find a way to score, while the Cowboy defense stiffened each time the Ravens were in scoring possession.
Ridegview's second possession was more of the same as the Ravens quickly moved the ball down the field. And once again, the Cowboy defense stiffened with Crook County taking over on downs on their own 38-yard line.
The Cowboys answered with their second long drive of the game, scoring with 6:17 left in the second quarter on a 15-yard pass from Brody Connell to Garett Bernard.
Running back Kyle Knudtson appeared to cross the goal line on the extra point attempt, but he was called short giving Crook County a 12-0 lead.
Then came the biggest mistake Crook County made all night.
Kicker Elias Villagomez boomed the ball to the Ridgeview 3 yard-line right against the sideline. However, Raven returner Josh Biever made the first Cowboy defender miss, then sprinted down the sideline for a 97-yard touchdown. The kick was good and the Ravens were back in the game, trailing just 12-7 with 6:01 remaining in the half.
Kaden Horton returned the kick to the 21-yard line and once again the Cowboys were able to move the ball. However, three untimely penalties made the drive more difficult than it needed to be. Still, Crook County found a way to convert three times on third and long, finally scoring on a 23-yard pass from Connell to Trevyn Smith. Once again, the extra point was no good, but the Cowboys were back in control leading 18-7.
The Cowboys had one final opportunity to score late in the first half when Ridgeview snapped the ball over the head of Biever, who was in punt formation. The Cowboy defense swarmed into the backfield, finally tackling him on the Ridgeview 34 yard-line.
However, the Cowboys committed their only turnover of the game and Ridgeview recovered with 36 seconds remaining on the clock.
The half ended with the Ravens on their own 30 yard-line.
The Cowboys received the ball to start the third quarter, but were only able to return it to the 6 yard-line, starting the third quarter backed up deep in their own territory.
A sliced punt gave the ball to the Ravens on Crook County's 44 with 10:33 remaining in the third. The Ravens quickly drove the ball down the field and had a first and goal inside the 5.
However, just when it looked like the Ravens were going to score, the Crook County defense stiffened, forcing a Ridgeview fumble, which Garett Bernard recovered in the end zone.
The Raven defense sacked Crook County quarterback Connell, putting the Cowboys in a fourth-and-long situation.
Connell dropped back to punt, but the snap was low, bouncing once before Connell was able to snare it. With the Ridgeview defense bearing down on him, Connell quickly scooped up the ball and scrambled to his right. Seeing an open field, he kept running, diving to the 30-yard line for a key first down.
"He had quite a few plays tonight where he got out of a mess and made something out of nothing," Cochran said. "That one was a pretty special one because that was a big fourth down conversion. I wish I could say I called that, but no, he scrambled and played that on his own. We have some veteran guys who have been in the system for quite a while, so with that they are an extension of the coaches on the field. With that, they get responsibilities."
"I just caught the ball off the ground and no one was there, so I thought I might as well try to get the first down," Connell said. "I didn't even know how close I was, but I thought that if I just kept running I could maybe get there. I think it was huge because we were backed up for most of the third quarter."
The play turned out to be the turning point in the game. Four plays later, Knudtson took the ball off right tackle and sprinted 50 yards for a touchdown. Connell then hit Horton in with a perfect pass for the two-point conversion and the Cowboys led 26-7.
From that point on, it was all Cowboys.
"I want to dedicate tonight's game to Steve Duke (a local parent and athletic supporter who is currently battling cancer)," Knudtson would say after the game. "Not only has he had an impact on the program, he has had an impact on my life individually. Just the way that he treats me with gratitude, I want to pay it back to him in any way that I can. I played my heart out and it was all for him."
Crook County scored again on the first play of the fourth quarter as Connell hit Knudtson in stride for a 20-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Cowboys were up 32-7.
When Horton scored on a counter play from 10-yards out with just 4:10 left on the clock, the Cowboys held a commanding 39-7 lead.
Ridgeview answered with a late touchdown against the Cowboys second string defense as Biever carried the ball across the goal line from four yards out with just 14 seconds remaining in the contest. The two-point conversion was good, but it didn't matter as the Cowboys still led 39-15. Following the ensuing kickoff, Connell took a knee and time expired, giving the Cowboys the easy win.
Connell finished the game with three touchdown passes and several big running plays as he directed the Cowboy offense.
Bernard caught three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. Knudtson also caught three pases for 41 yards and a touchdown, while Trevyn Smith caught two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Hogan Smith finished with two catches for 38 yards while Berman caught one pass for 20 yards.
"It was good to see after the jamboree," Connell said. "Tonight it was like it was on command. Whatever we wanted to do we could do it. We had some discipline issues, but other than that, we can move the ball on command."
All three Crook County running backs were also able to pick up big yards at times, something that Cochran credited to the Cowboy offensive line.
"Our guys up front," he said. "We ran the ball pretty well tonight and we opened up some big holes. A lot of that rushing yardage is going to be because of those big guys. I think it's that one day at a time mentality of constantly getting better. We've got to put our hard hat on and get to work come Monday and now it's just keep things rolling."
The Cowboys finished with 489 yards of total offense to 400 for the Ravens.
Connell was 13-20 passing for 182 yards with three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Raven quarterback Bryce Demars was 14-30 for 150 yards and no touchdowns.
With Knudtson leading the way, the Cowboys amassed 307 yards rushing.
Knudtson finished with 149 yards on 10 carries with one rushing touchdown.
Connell added 73 yards rushing on seven carries, while Horton carried the ball seven times of 44 yards and a touchdown and Berman eight times for 41 yards and also scored a touchdown.
Biever led the Raven rushing attack with 123 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Connell led the Cowboys with 11 solo tackles, while Austin Rochelle had five solo tackles and two sacks.
Bernard finished with four tackles and a fumble recovery, while Berman had three tackles and two sacks.
Crook County is on the road next week when they take on Cottage Grove, 0-1, who lost to Cascade 55-6 in their season opener. Game time is 7 p.m.
"They came in here last year and beat us," Cochran said. "So we have got to put our hard hat on and get to work come Monday. Now that we've got that first game off our back, it's keep things rolling."
Ridgeview 0 7 0 8 – 15
Crook County 6 12 8 13 – 39
CC – Clayton Berman 8-yard run. Kick failed.
CC – Brody Connell 15-yard pass to Garett Bernard. Run failed.
R – Josh Biever 97-yard kickoff return. Biever kick good.
CC – Connell 23-yard pass to Trevyn Smith. Pass incomplete.
CC – Kyle Knudtson 50-yard run. Connell pass to Kaden Horton good.
CC – Connell 20-yard pass to Knudtson. Pass failed.
CC – Horton 10-yard run. Elias Villagomez kick good.
R – Biever 4-yard run. Kevin Edmondson pass to Dylan Cardwell good.
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