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Early pick-six, late fourth quarter drive keys Crook County's upset of 5A Panthers on the road

LON AUSTIN  - Quarterback Gavin Sandoval works to break free of a tackle during the Cowboys' 28-21 win over Redmond Saturday. Sandoval scored the game-winning touchdown.In a game that went down to the final play, the Crook County Cowboys were able to defeat the Redmond Panthers 28-21 Saturday afternoon in a non-league football game in Redmond.

"Way to respond," Crook County head coach Pard Smith told his team following the contest. "Cowboys on your chest, that means something. That second half, I'm so proud of you guys. You got heart, you got guts. You wanted it more than they did. When it got tough, you went harder."

Crook County got on the scoring board first. After kicking off to the Panthers, the Cowboys Eddie Freauff intercepted a pass on the Crook County 40-yard line, then raced down the sideline 60-yards for a touchdown.

Freauff was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for sliding after crossing the goal line, so the extra point attempt came from the 18-yard line. Gabe Love's kick was blocked, but the Cowboys led 6-0 with 9:49 remaining in the first quarter.

The Panthers responded with a lengthy drive, taking more than seven minutes to drive 81 yards for the game-tying touchdown as Kyle Littlejohn punched the ball in from 14 yards out. The kick by Dakota Wedding was good and Redmond led 7-6 late in the first quarter.

With just 2:44 remaining in the first quarter, the Cowboys had not yet run an offensive play. Wedding's kickoff went out of bounds and Crook County started their first possession on their own 35-yard line. Crook County failed to gain any yardage on the possession and were forced to punt. The punt was returned to the Redmond 32-yard line, where once again the Panthers went on a time-eating drive. This time Redmond ate up more than five minutes before Kellan Fury scored from five yards out. Wedding's kick was good and the Panthers led 14-6.

Crook County took possession on their own 30-yard line and went on a long drive of their own, marching 70 yards in 13 plays to score the game-tying touchdown. The big play of the drive was a 26-yard pass from Gavin Sandoval to Eli Freauff for the touchdown. Sandoval then threw to Eddie Freauff for the two-point conversion and the two teams were tied with just over three minutes left in the first half.

Redmond moved the ball to midfield on their next possession before Eddie Freauff intercepted his second pass of the game to kill the drive. With just 11 seconds left in the half, the Cowboys took a knee and the two teams went into the locker room tied 14-14.

Crook County received the kickoff to open the second half and quickly marched 85 yards in nine plays, scoring on a two-yard quarterback sneak by Palmer Smith. Love's kick was good and the Cowboys led 21-14 with 7:35 remaining in the third quarter.

"We went into the locker room kind of down and we came out and put a score on the board and that gave us momentum to finish out the game," Eddie Freauff said of the third-quarter touchdown. "We made a lot of mistakes in this game and we were really fortunate to come out with a win. But, it shows us that we can be really great when league comes around and it also shows us what things we need to work on. We just have got to clean up mental mistakes, the little things that coach talks about every day at practice."

Redmond failed to move the ball on their next possession, punting back to the Cowboys. Crook County took over on their own 18, and quickly drove the ball down the field all the way to the Redmond 17-yard line. However, from there, Crook County went backward, finally turning the ball over on downs on the 25-yard line with just 8:44 remaining in the game.

Redmond then pounded the ball down the field. With Littlejohn doing most of the damage the Panthers ate nearly five minutes of clock as they drove 75-yards for the score. Wedding kicked the extra point and the two teams were tied 21-21 with just under four minutes left in the game.

On their final possession of the game, the Cowboys started on their own 20-yard line. They drove down the field with Sandoval scoring on a scramble from four yards out with just 29 seconds remaining. Love's kick was good and the Cowboys had a seven-point lead.

Redmond refused to quit. The Panthers returned Love's kick to the 36-yard line, then moved the ball all the way to the Crook County 38. On the final play of the game quarterback, Colton Horner threw the ball into the end zone to Trace Brenner. However, Brenner could not control the ball as he fell out the back of the end zone as time expired.

"It was really important for us to get that win," coach Smith said. "Sometimes there is kind of a hangover after those tough losses (the Sept. 9 43-36 loss to Junction City at home) and Redmond has a similar style of run game to Junction City. Man, they are good at running that scheme and running the ball all over us, but we made enough plays when it counted and had the ball last and got the win."

Redmond pounded the ball on the ground the entire game, finishing with 331 yards of total offense, most coming on the ground. Meanwhile the Cowboys were more balanced, rushing the ball 32 times for 118 yards, while Sandoval completed 13 of 15 passes for 191 yards.

Palmer Smith carried the ball 12 times for 30 yards and a touchdown, while Kaleb Goozee had two carries for 22 yards, Sandoval eight carries for 32 yards and a touchdown, Eli Freauff four carries for nine yards, Cooper Nelson one carry for nine yards, Luke Freauff four carries for 10 yards and Eddie Freauff one carry for six yards.

Eli Freauff caught five passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, while Edddie Freauff had three catches for 41 yards, Nelson three catches for 10 yards, Smith one catch for seven yards and Austin Vaughn one catch for 12 yards.

Goozee led the Cowboy defense with 12 trackles, while Palmer Smith had seven, Nelson five, Eli Freauff five, Jubal Brumble four, Ethan Lamphere four, Elias Powlison four, and Eddie Freauff four tackles, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown.

"They won the possession battle, but we had explosive plays and the big plays and we had the ball last in an important situation and were able to score," coach Smith said. "You know, if we clean up those penalties and those missed tackles, this is a good group. There's not a lot of them, but they are pretty special across the board. Thank the fans for coming out on a Saturday and being here. I'm just really proud of our guys and I think that it was a gusty win."

With the win, the Cowboys improved to 2-1 on the year, while Redmond dropped to 1-2. Crook County moved up to 13th in the OSAA power rankings, something that could be important as the year goes on. Currently five of the Greater Oregon League teams are ranked in the top 15 in the state, with Baker ranked third, Madras fifth, La Grande 10th, Pendleton 12th, and the Cowboys 13th.

Crook County plays their final non-league game this Friday when they host Caldera, 0-3, in a 7 p.m. contest.

Crook County 6 8 7 7 — 28

Redmond 7 7 0 7 — 21

CC — Eddie Freauff 60 yd interception return, Gabe Love kick blocked.

R — Kyle Littlejohn 14-yard run, Dakota Wedding kick good.

R — Kellan Fury 5-yard run, Wedding kick good.

CC — Luke Freauff 26-yard pass from Sandoval, Sandoval pass to Eddie Freauff for two-point conversion.

CC — Palmer Smith 2-yard run, Love kick good.

R — Littlejohn 5-yard run, Wedding kick good.

CC — Sandoval 4-yard run, Love kick good.


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