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The Cowboys led going into the fourth quarter, but the Indians scored a late TD to win

The Crook County High School football team has lost another close ball game.

This time, the Cowboys led 16-12 late in the contest at Molalla before the Indians scored a fourth quarter touchdown to take a 19-16 victory over Crook County.

"We played hard," Crook County head coach Pard Smith said following the game. "We threw two interceptions and a couple of fumbles that cost us. We just made too many mistakes to win the football game."

Molalla struck first, using screens and other outside plays to move the ball down the field. Their kick was no good, but with much of the first quarter remaining, the Indians led 6-0.

Crook County made some defensive adjustments and for most of the remainder of the ball game prevented the Indians from moving the ball. The Cowboys finally struck back on a 90-yard pass from Palmer Smith to Kyree Willis. A pass from Smith to Joshua Knight gave Crook County the 2-point conversion and an 8-6 lead.

The Cowboys threatened to strike again late in the first half, driving all the way to the 3-yard line, before fumbling the ball. Molalla recovered the fumble, and ran out the clock, ending the half with Crook County still leading 8-6.

"We should have had another score," coach Smith said. "We created a few turnovers. We had trouble running the football again, but shoot, we threw the heck out of the ball."

And throw, the Cowboys did. In the third quarter, Smith connected on another big pass, this time to Eddie Freauff for another 90-yard score. The 2-point conversion was once again a successful pass to Knight, and the Cowboys led 16-6.

Molalla battled back, taking advantage of a Crook County miscue to score again late in the third quarter. Once again, the kick was no good, but the Indians were within striking distance, trailing 16-12.

That's the way the score stayed until midway through the fourth quarter when the Cowboys had another turnover. Molalla capitalized on the field position, this time scoring on a pass play to go ahead for the first time since their first possession of the contest. The kick was good, and the Indians led 19-16 with seven minutes remaining in the contest.

The Cowboys had two more chances to score, but penalties and some muffed snaps from center killed drives. Still, Crook County still had a chance to win until the final play of the game.

It was an unusual game for Crook County, which likes to run the ball, but were completely unable to move the ball on the ground, with 13 carries for minus 28 yards. However, Crook County was able to move the ball seemingly at will through the air. Palmer Smith completed 15 of 23 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, while backup quarterback Gavin Sandoval was two of four for 60 yards.

It was Smith's best passing game of the season. Unfortunately, the Cowboy junior was also responsible for three of the four Crook County turnovers.

Willis, Eddie Freauff, Eli Freauff, Knight and Caleb Goozee all caught multiple balls during the game.

"We had some big plays and were able to capitalize on the momentum," coach Smith said. "Willis, Eddie Freauff and Knight all had big games. We spread it around pretty good, and when they were giving us underneath stuff, we took it. When they started stopping that stuff, then we hit them over the top for a big one. I thought we did pretty good. Just a couple of errant reads and throws, and then like I said, those fumbles."

Defensively, the Cowboys played well, other than the first Molalla drive.

Crook County linebackers Brayden Duke and Goozee had 11 and 10 solo tackles, respectively. Goozee also had a fumble recovery and a quarterback sack, while Duke had four assists and a sack of his own.

Garrett Cobb had five solo tackles and three assists while Cameron Carr had two tackles and an interception. Willis also had an interception and a blocked punt, while Nate Littrell had a pair of blocked punts.

Duke was the only Cowboy who gained any yardage on the ground, carrying the ball three times for 7 yards. Trent West had five carries for minus 3 yards, while Smith had four carries for minus 17 yards, and Sandoval had one carry for minus 15 yards.

West punted the ball five times in the game for an average of 29.8 yards per punt. He also had one return for 27 yards. Willis had a pair of returns for a total of 35 yards, but he also was called for an illegal forward pass on an attempted lateral on one of the returns.

With the loss, the Cowboys dropped to 1-1 in Special District 2 play and 2-4 overall, while Molalla improved to 1-1 in league and 2-3 overall. The Cowboys host Gladstone this coming Friday. The game matches one of the league's four teams that have 1-1 league records and are deadlocked in second place. Gladstone is 2-4 overall. They have scored 61 points on the year but have given up 144. Crook County has scored 151 points and have given up 137. However, Gladstone is ranked 13th in the OSAA rankings and the Cowboys 26th.

Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Ward Rhoden Stadium.

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