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Up 9-6 at half against Hornets, Cowboys can't hold back Henley's offense in the second half, lose 47-23

LON AUSTIN  - Eddie Freauff, shown here earlier in the season, had a kickoff return for a touchdown against Henley in the 47-23 Crook County loss to the Hornets in the 4A state football playoffs Friday.
The Crook County Cowboy football team played a nearly perfect first half on Friday in the first round of the state playoffs, but struggled to maintain the momentum in the second half as they fell 47-23 to the Henley Hornets in a game that was played at Mazama High School in Klamath Falls.

"I'm just proud of our guys," Crook County head coach Pard Smith said of the game. "We are kind of short on numbers and our guys just battled. I told them they are warriors and I think it's big for them to get in the playoffs. This one kind of stings because of the second half, but I'm proud of how they competed. I wouldn't want to coach another group of kids."

Henley took the lead with a first quarter touchdown. However, the second quarter was all Crook County.

Crook County's Kaleb Goozee blocked a punt out the back of the end zone for a safety early in the second quarter. The Cowboys then drove the ensuing free kick down the field with Palmer Smith scoring on a short run to give Crook County a 9-6 lead.

Neither team scored again in the first half as the Cowboys went into the locker room with a slim lead over the No. 4-ranked Hornets.

"We came out really hot and just jumped on them and they weren't expecting it," Crook County senior lineman Levi Gruber said. "We were really happy with the first half."

Henley made some adjustments at halftime and the Hornets were able to move the ball more in the second half. The Hornets scored twice in the third quarter, both on long runs, as Henley opened up a 20-9 lead. The Cowboys tried to answer, but although they continued to move the ball well, mistakes killed their drives.

The fourth quarter was wild with the Cowboys scoring a pair of touchdowns, while Henley scored 27 points in the period.

Crook County's touchdowns came on an 85-yard kickoff return by Eddie Freauff and a three-yard run by Smith. Smith's run was set up by a 23-yard pass from Gavin Sandoval to Goozee. Sandoval then carried the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion.

Although the Cowboys were competitive for most of the game, in the end the Hornet run game was just too much for Crook County to handle.

"It just didn't swing our way," Gruber said of the second half. "They had some breakthroughs and they got us on some big plays. It could be just mental mistakes or errors, but we just weren't in the right position at the right time."

With the loss, Crook County finishes their season with a 5-5 record, while Henley improves to 9-1 and advances to the state quarterfinals where they will host 9-1 Estacada on Friday.

"I think we accomplished a lot as a team this year," Gruber said. "We definitely set a standard for Crook County for years to come. We definitely grew as a team throughout the season and became a team that definitely had a chance to win that game."

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