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Injuries and turnovers take their toll as Cowboys fall to 1-3 on the fall season

The Crook County Cowboy football team has been decimated with injuries.

Thin before the season started, those injuries are starting to take their toll. According to head coach Pard Smith, late in Friday night's road loss to North Eugene, the Cowboys had to pull the jersey off of a receiver and give him a lineman's jersey just to be able to finish out the game.

Coupled with turnovers, those injuries led to a 35 to 14 loss to the Highlanders.

"We were in the game, but I think the biggest deal was the turnovers," coach Smith said. "I think we probably dropped three or four passes that would have either put us in good position to score or would have been scores. Even if we get half of those, that's two more scores on the board and changes the complexion of the game a little bit. Then, I think we had five or six turnovers. We threw two interceptions, we had a couple of fumbles and we fumbled a snap on a punt that kind of cost us some valuable field position and then they recovered an onside kick."

North Eugene scored early in the first quarter to take an early 7-0 lead. However, the Cowboys came roaring back as quarterback Palmer Smith hit Eli Freauf with a 65-yard strike. Smith then hit Kyrie Willis with a pass for the two-point conversion and the Cowboys led 8-7.

However, the Cowboys did not score again until the fourth quarter, while North Eugene scored twice in the second quarter to take a 21-8 lead into the half. The third North Eugene touchdown came almost immediately after the second one as the Highlanders recovered a surprise onside kick and quickly scored again.

That's the way the score stayed until the fourth quarter when North Eugene scored twice more, while the Cowboys back-up quarterback, Gavin Sandavol, hit Austin Vaughan for an 8-yard touchdown pass.

"After watching the film, our guys are gritty, they keep playing," coach Smith said. "I'm proud of the effort our boys play with. We got even more dinged up; we lost a couple more kids, so guys stepping up and playing, you know, so I'm proud of that. Hopefully, we can get a few guys back that can help us this week, but we are pretty dinged up. We don't have anybody to rotate, so that hurts not being able to keep our linemen fresh and then just having answers to go to. At one point, we had to pull a jersey off of a receiver kid and put him in at line late in the game, just to finish up the game."

Despite giving up 35 points, Smith said that the defense was solid most of the time. They did miss some tackles, but most of the Highlander points were the results of turnovers giving them a short field.

"We didn't do a good job tackling, but after watching the film, we made them keep snapping it; we made them earn it," he said. "We gave them a short field and then we would play pretty good defense. We played better defensively than I thought, better than it felt during the game, after I watched film. But we have to do a better job with fundamentals — blocking and tackling and the stuff that we are working on all the time. You get tired and get a little dinged up and then the mechanics sort of go away and being fundamentally sound goes away. We just have got to do a better job of coaching them up there."

Crook County did most of their offensive damage in the air as Smith and Sandavol combined to complete 11 of 22 passes for 219 yards.

Smith was eight for 15 for 160 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw a pair of interceptions. Meanwhile, playing in the fourth quarter, Sandavol went three for seven for 51 yards and a touchdown, but he lost a fumble on his first snap from scrimmage.

Kyrie Willis caught four passes for 93 yards, while Eli Freauff caught one for 65 yards and a touchdown. Eddie Freauff caught two passes for 41 yards and Vaughan caught one pass for eight yards and a touchdown.

As a team, the Cowboys carried the ball 28 times for 84 yards rushing, with Brayden Duke leading the way with 11 carries for 42 yards. Jacob McKinnon carried the ball nine times for 17 yards, while Sandavol had one carry for 12 yards.

Eddie Freauff had three kickoff or punt returns for 59 yards while Willis had two returns for 44 yards.

Duke led the Cowboy defense with eight tackles and a fumble recovery, while Palmer Smith and Willis each had six tackles.

With the loss the Cowboys fell to 1-3 on the year while North Eugene improved to 1-1.

The Cowboys open league play at home this Friday against North Marion, 0-3. It is homecoming for Crook County with game time scheduled for 7 p.m. at Ward Rhoden Stadium.


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