The Culver Bulldogs football team lost their senior night game to the Sheridan Spartans 12-8 in a close battle Nov. 1.
"Kids played tough all the way through from the start of the game all the way to the finish," head coach Shea Little said. "We need a couple things to fall our way. The kids played hard; they (Sheridan) are a good team, but we definitely could have pulled a win."
"We started the season off wanting to improve every time we stepped on the field and play together as a team, work hard and those seniors have led us all season," he said. "They did a good job tonight leading us. Nobody was down, everyone kept fighting and we just needed a few things to go our way for that W."
Culver moved to 5-3 overall, 2-3 in league play and is now ranked No. 10. Despite the loss, the Bulldogs still made the postseason. Culver travels to Astoria to play the No. 8 ranked Knappa Loggers (7-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8.
"We told the kids be ready Monday, put in the work and let's shock the nation. We always game plan to the other team's strengths and try to stop their best plays defensively and attack their weaknesses. The team will also keep focusing on ourselves, show up, play physical, play hard. I think we were more physical than this team and as crazy as it sounds, even last week against Kennedy, a lot of players were on the sidelines at the end of the game and we were still out there. We take pride in that, being the toughest team out there and we are."
Culver finished in third place in the very tough Tri-River Conference. No. 1 ranked Kennedy (7-1) finished in first place in the Tri-River Conference and plays Grant Union (3-6) in the first round of the state playoffs. No. 6 ranked Sheridan (6-2) beat the Bulldogs to claim the second spot in league and play Warrenton (6-2) in its state playoff game.
Two other teams in the Tri-River Conference made the postseason, which is a testament to how tough the Tri-River Conference is. No. 13 ranked Colton (5-3) plays Monroe (8-1) and No. 15 ranked Santiam (5-3) plays Coquille (8-1) in the postseason.
At the start of the Culver game, Sheridan fumbled the ball twice, in its first two possessions. The Bulldogs recovered both fumbles, but were not able to capitalize on the Spartans' mistakes.
After a stalemate on offense in the majority of the first quarter, Sheridan was able to punch the ball in for a score with 1:47 left in the opening quarter.
A 50-yard run by Randy Gibson set up a 6-yard touchdown run up the middle by DeElden Paulk for Sheridan. The 2-point conversion was no good and the Spartans took a 6-0 lead over the Bulldogs.
Culver was forced to punt the ball on its next possession and Sheridan had the ball on offense with momentum on its side. Sheridan went marching down the field controlling the ball with short run plays and a few pass completions, putting Sheridan in scoring position with little time left in the half.
On first-and-goal, Sheridan quarterback Gavin Anderson dropped back to pass. Anderson was under heavy pressure from the Culver defense and threw the ball up in the air, toward the end zone. The ball was intercepted by Culver safety Justyce Loredo and the Culver offense took the field on the 1-yard line.
Culver punted the ball on offense and Sheridan ran out of time on its next offensive possession. Sheridan went into halftime with only a 6-0 lead over Culver.
Culver kicked off to Sheridan to start the second half, but the Spartans mishandled the kick and the ball was recovered by the Bulldogs.
On a third-and-13, Culver quarterback Anthony Hood threw a deep ball to Kaden Engel. Engel was double-covered, but made a great leaping catch, putting the Bulldogs at the 5-yard line.
Culver put Loredo back into the game at quarterback and Loredo scored a 2-yard touchdown on a QB sneak, tying the game. Running back Zachary Wiseman scored the 2-point conversion and Culver took an 8-6 lead over Sheridan.
Sheridan was back on offense and started a drive with several toss-and-dive play runs. The team convertated on fourth-and-1 with a dive up the middle to keep the drive going. A holding penalty set up a fourth-and-10 around the midfield and the Spartans decided to go for it.
Sheridan tossed the ball to running back Wyatt Schultz, who threw the ball to Randy Gibson down the field. Gibson made the catch for a 30-yard gain and a first down. An unsportsmanlike penalty play on Sheridan set up a big fourth-and-17 and Sheridan decided to go for it again, close to the red zone.
Culver put heavy pressure on Sheridan quarterback Anderson, who threw a deep pass down the field. The pass was incomplete, but a pass interference call on Culver gave Sheridan another chance to convert on fourth down, this time on a fourth-and-3.
Gibson ran the ball on a sweep and gained 6 yards on the Spartans, giving them a first down. Schultz punched the ball in on an 8-yard sweep to the right. The 2-point conversion was no good and Sheridan took a 12-8 lead with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
Culver had a good kick return by Caden Engel and the Bulldog offense took the field. On third-and-3, Wiseman took off for a 40-yard run, putting the Bulldogs in good field position.
A few plays later, a dive play by Culver was stuffed, setting up what would have been a fourth-and-3, close to the 20-yard line, but Culver was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty, which put Culver in a fourth-and-18 position.
Culver went for it, but the pass was incomplete and the Bulldogs gave the ball back to the Spartans with 8:49 left in the game. Sheridan was marching down the field once again and Culver called a timeout with 5:08 left in the game.
After the timeout, Sheridan completed a short pass near the end zone, but Culver forced another fumble and recovered the ball, giving the Bulldogs another chance to try to win the game.
After a few good run plays by Culver, the Bulldogs had to try to convert on third-and-15. A pass was completed for a 3-yard gain, setting up fourth-and-12. Culver called a timeout with 2:32 left in the game, trying to set up a play to convert on fourth down. The pass by Culver was incomplete. The turnover gave the ball back to Sheridan's offense and the Spartans ran the ball and the clock to finish out the game, beating Culver 12-8.
Sheridan QB Anderson finished the game 8-for-11 with 85 yards and an interception. Gibson ran the ball 12 times for 130 yards, averaging 10.8 yards per carry and a rushing touchdown, while also having three receptions for 55 yards. Gibson and Anderson are both sophomores for Sheridan. The Spartans had 356 total yards on offense and turned the ball over five times.
Culver had 210 yards of offense, going 3-for-11 with 43 yards in the air and 167 yards on the ground. Wiseman was the leading rusher for Culver, ending the game with 132 yards rushing on 21 carries, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
The Bulldogs' defense was led by Loredo, who had 15 total tackles, while sophomore Eduardo Penaloza ended the game with 10 total tackles. Culver's defense also recovered four fumbles and had one interception.
"Defense played hard; they did their jobs, focused on their jobs and swarmed the football," Little said.
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