Cowboys went down 21-6 in the first half and could not complete the comeback attempt

PMG PHOTO: LON AUSTIN - Crook County's Kyree Willis (8) scored one of the team's touchdowns in the Cowboys' 21-12 loss at Madras.It was another tough loss for the Crook County football team as they were eliminated from playoff contention with a 21-12 loss Friday evening to the Madras White Buffalos.

In the previous two games, the Cowboys have had leads late into the fourth quarter before giving up late scores. This week was different as the Cowboys fell behind early, rallied, but came up just short.

Things got off to a bad start for the Cowboys when they found out that they would not have a bus until later than they had scheduled.

As a consequence, the team did a portion of their warmup in Prineville before getting on the bus.

"With this whole COVID deal, there has been a shortage of bus drivers so the guy that took us had to get his route first," Crook County head coach Pard Smith said. "We probably would have been OK, but we decided to do some specialist stuff at home planning for worst case scenario. The way we came out, I thought we were flat and didn't come out ready to play so ultimately that lands on me for not having the guys ready to go. I told the guys that you have to be ready to deal with adversity and we weren't ready to go, so ultimately that lands on me."

The White Buffalos attempted an on-side kick to start the game, but the ball went out of bounds, giving the Cowboys great field position. On their opening play, the Cowboys ran a reverse to Kyree Willis, who raced for 25 yards all the way to the Madras 15 yard-line. On the next play, Crook County quarterback Palmer Smith dropped back to pass and threw what looked like a strike to Joshua Knight in the end zone. However, the play was one of a series of plays where the officiating angered Crook County fans. From the Crook County sideline, it looked like the Madras defensive back tackled Knight prior to the ball arriving, but the officials said that the two players got their feet tangled up and there was no penalty.

A pass to Willis moved the ball to the nine-yard line, but the Cowboys failed to convert on fourth and three and Madras took possession.

The two teams exchanged punts with Madras regaining possession on their own 20 yard-line. On the ensuing play, Madras quarterback Dru Boyle dropped back to pass and hit fellow junior Cael White in stride. White raced down the sideline 80 yards for a touchdown. The kick by Johan Poland was good and with 6:57 remaining in the first quarter, the White Buffalos led 7-0.

Willis returned the kick to the 50, but on the next play Smith was intercepted. However, Madras was called for a horse-collar tackle on Smith just as he threw the pass, and the penalty gave the Cowboys a first down on the 35-yard line. The first quarter ended as the Cowboys had moved the ball all the way to the Madras three-yard line, helped by another big penalty against Madras. Two plays later, Smith hit Knight in the end zone for a touchdown. That play was also not without controversy as White, a Madras defensive back, eventually ended up with the ball in the end zone.

The Cowboy two-point conversion attempt failed, but Crook County had closed to within a point at 7-6 with 11:09 left in the half.

Madras returned the kick to their own 30-yard line. Two plays later, Knight appeared to be face-guarding a Madras receiver. A year ago, that would have been a penalty, but under the new rules that is not a foul. Nonetheless, an official called pass interference, giving the White Buffalos a first down on the 45-yard line. Seven plays later, Boyle hit Ayden Holcomb down the left sideline at about the five-yard line. Holcomb broke a tackle and carried the ball into the end zone. Poland's kick was good again and the White Buffalos led 14-7 with 7:56 remaining in the first half.

Kaleb Goozee returned the ensuing kickoff to the Madras 45-yard line where he fumbled the ball. Ryan Orozco recovered for Madras, however, a Goozee sack of Boyle left the White Buffalos with fourth and long on the 40.

Madras fumbled the ensuing snap but the White Buffalo punter was able to pick the ball up and made a four-yard punt. The Cowboys moved the ball to the Madras 30-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. Five plays later, Boyle threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to White. Poland's kick was good again, and the White Buffalos led 21-6 with 30 seconds left in the half.

That's the way the half ended. Crook County kicked off to start the third quarter and the Crook County defense stuffed the White Buffalos, forcing a quick punt. Crook County failed to move the ball on their next possession, punting the ball back to Madras. A three and out gave the ball back to the Cowboys with Eddie Freauff returning the punt to the 45-yard line. Four plays later, Smith hit Eddie Freauff in the corner of the end zone on a 26-yard pass play. Once again the two-point conversion failed, but the Cowboys were back in the game trailing 21-12.

"We challenged the guys at halftime," coach Smith said. "We were flat in the first half and didn't get any big plays and gave up some big momentum plays, so we challenged them at halftime, and it wasn't about Xs and Os. We made a few adjustments, but it was more about fire and determination and playing with discipline and effort and I think we did that in the second half."

Knight agreed that the Cowboys played better in the second half.

"We got a really good, I guess, ass-chewing at halftime," he said. "I think it rallied us up and made us play with a lot more energy. I think that we won the second half, even though our first half was definitely not good. I feel like we came out and battled and won the second half. We just need to come out of the locker room and just get to it for an entire game."

The score stayed 21-12 until midway through the fourth quarter, when the Cowboys went on a long drive. On fourth and 10 from the 20, Crook County attempted a field goal, but it was blocked. That was when the officiating controversy really blew up. Smith alertly picked up the blocked kick and raced into the end zone with a convoy of Cowboy blockers for an apparent touchdown.

However, an official had blown his whistle, and most of the Madras players were heading off the field by the time the Smith had run into the end zone. Instead of scoring on the play, the Cowboys were given fourth down again, and a pass from Smith to Willis was batted down by White.

Three plays later, Crook County appeared to sack Boyle in the end zone for a safety, but the officials ruled that Boyle's forward progress was stopped at the one-yard line.

Crook County fans erupted, and eventually an administrator moved all Crook County spectators off the track before play was resumed. From there, Madras ran out the clock, preserving the victory, and moving into a second-place tie in the Special District 2 league.

"I've been coaching this game for a long time, and that stuff happens in football," coach Smith said of the controversial plays. "Ultimately we would like to have a couple of those calls go a different way than they did, but (the officials) are doing the best that they can do and they are short-handed and we realize that and we make it a deal to focus on the things that we can control and that stuff is out of our control, so there is really no sense in looking back or fighting our heads about it, because we can't control it."

Smith completed 14 of 31 passes for 120 yards. Knight caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown while Eddie Freauff caught three passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. Cobb caught three passes for 16 yards, Willis two passes for eight yards and Eli Freauff two catches for 12 yards.

As a team, the Cowboys carried the ball 26 times for 78 yards with Willis gaining 25 yards on one carry and Smith picking up 25 yards on eight carries. Cobb finished with 11 carries for 11 yards while Goozee had five carries for 13 yards. The Cowboys had 198 yards of total offense, while Madras finished with 253 yards, despite running eight fewer plays than the Cowboys.

Goozee led the Cowboys in tackles with five solo and three assists along with a sack. Brayden Duke also had a solid defensive night with five solo tackles and six assists while Cobb had five tackles and two assists.

With the loss, Crook County fell to 1-3 in league and 2-6 overall, while the White Buffalos improved to 3-1 in league and 4-3 overall.

The Cowboys finish out the regular season this Friday when they host number two ranked Estacada, 4-0, 8-0, in a 7 p.m. game at Ward Rhoden Stadium.

"Thank the fans for coming out," coach Smith said. "I'm glad we came out and played a good second half of football and I wish things had been a little different. Come out next week and support us. We've got one more and we are going to come out and give it our all for our seniors."

Madras 21, Crook County 12

at Madras

Crook County 0 6 6 0 – 12

Madras 7 14 0 0 – 21

M – 80 yard pass from Dru Boyle to Cael White, Kick by Johan Poland good.

CC – Three-yard pass from Palmer Smith to Joshua Knight, two-point conversion attempt no good.

M – 11-yard pass from Boyle to Ayden Holcomb, Poland kick good.

M – 35-yard pass from Boyle to White, Poland kick good.

CC – 26-yard pass from Smith to Eddie Freauff, two-point conversion attempt no good.

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