Crook County silences Woodburn in 31-6 rout
The Crook County football season was teetering on edge, coming into Friday night's road game against the Woodburn Bulldogs
However, thanks to senior Brody Connell and a potent running game, the Cowboys returned to Prineville with a dominating 31-6 victory and looking like a playoff team once again.
It was a night in which Woodburn celebrated its 13 graduating seniors, along with the return of former All-State defensive back Cory Sonnen as an honorary captain. But following the opening ceremonies, the evening belonged to Connell, who scored three touchdowns and amassed more than 200 yards on the ground for a Crook County team that ground out 401 rushing yards on Dale Yuranek Field.
"I'm impressed with our offense because we haven't been moving the ball as well as we'd like to, and tonight we did," Connell said. "We knew we had to play as a team, which we hadn't been doing, and it worked out."
For Woodburn, it was a night of frustration. The team was able to string together multiple long drives, only to be driven back by penalties, negative plays or turnovers that dropped the Bulldogs to 0-4 against Special District 2 opponents.
"(We) must regroup, let's work together and play like a family," Woodburn head coach Nic Federico said after the game. "That's about it."
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Cowboys, who looked like a shoo-in for the state playoffs in late September after opening the season 3-0, including back-to-back shutouts. But after dropping the first three games of the league schedule by a combined total of 18 points, Crook County's postseason hopes were in serious jeopardy heading into their last road game of the regular season at Woodburn.
"For the last three weeks, we've been super close in football games," Crook County head coach Ryan Cochran said. "This week, we started putting some things together and kind of came out the other side."
Connell scored twice for the Cowboys on the ground and added a third touchdown on a 14-yard connection with fellow senior Ethan Cossitt for the first points of the game midway through the first quarter.
From there, Crook County methodically imposed their will on the Bulldogs. Taking advantage of slick conditions that made holding onto the football difficult for both teams, the Cowboys racked up three turnovers — two fumbles and an interception — that kept Woodburn scoreless until the final two minutes of the contest.
"We've been in tight ballgames, from overtimes to losing by six, and our defense has been playing their hearts out," Cochran said. "We're keeping games close and putting some things together, and I can't say enough about our boys playing defense this year."
The Bulldogs had their defensive stops, including a pair of fumbles recovered by seniors Mauricio Maravilla and Dyontae Navarrete, but it wasn't enough to slow down the Crook County offense.
Following the opening score of the game, Woodburn mounted a 13-play drive to get within reach of the Crook County red zone, only to be forced back to midfield on a sack from Cossitt. After a Bulldog punt that was downed within six yards of the end zone, Connell marched it back into Woodburn territory with a 71-yard run up the left sideline, setting up an 11-yard touchdown run four plays later.
The Cowboys made it 16-0 heading into halftime after a Woodburn roughing penalty on the final play of the second quarter moved Crook County to within field goal range for senior Elias Villagomez, who drilled a 42-yarder through the uprights.
After the break, both teams mounted drives that stalled at midfield before Crook County scored again on a 15-yard touchdown run by Connell to bring the score to 24-0. The two teams burnt up much of the clock in the second half trading long drives before the Bulldogs put themselves on the board with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Blem to Tomas Veliz.
But three plays later, Crook County reserve running back Triston Fischer brought it back 26 yards for a touchdown of his own to bring the game to its final margin.
For the night, Connell finished with 217 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and went 6-of-12 for 72 yards and a score.
Kyle Knudtson rushed for 75 yards for the Cowboys, while Hogan Smith came off the bench for 46, Fisher rushed for 40 and Kaden Horton ran for 17 yards.
Smith also played briefly at quarterback, going 2-for-2 for 25 yards.
As a team, the Cowboys amassed 497 yards of total offense, with 401 of that coming on the ground.
Blem led the Bulldogs, going 8-of-17 for 135 yards and a touchdown behind center. Veliz finished with five catches for 77 yards and a score, while Navarrete had 87 rushing yards to go along with three catches for 28 yards and 6-of-8 passing for 26 yards as well.
Defensively, the Cowboys were led by Cossitt with 11 solo tackles, four assists a sack, and a forced fumble. Clayton Berman also had 11 solo tackles, while Brayden Duke finished with five solo tackles, for assists, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
In addition to his great offensive night, Connell also played well on defense, forcing a fumble, recovering a fumble and picking up a pass interception.
Despite the result, the game's opening festivities were a positive moment, bringing back Sonnen to the field in which he was a Second Team All-Defensive selection for the Class AA Bulldogs in 1989. Sonnen was a three-time state wrestling champion and went on to win a conference title at the University of Oregon.
"I see his name everywhere, and growing up, I heard a lot about these guys, the Sonnens," Federico said. "You hear about these legends, and I hear he's fighting brain cancer. We always bring back legends. He's up in Washington, came down, and I'm very glad he was here."
Woodburn (2-5, 0-4 Special District 2) concludes its regular season on Friday, Oct. 25 at No. 3 Gladstone (5-2, 3-1 SD2), which is coming off a 26-20 loss to No. 4 North Marion.
Meanwhile, Crook County (4-3, 1-3 SD2) returns home to face Estacada (4-3, 1-3 SD2). With the two teams ranked No. 14 and No. 17 by the OSAA, respectively, the victor will likely earn one of the eight at-large berths to the 4A play-in round.
"It was a really important week for us," Connell said. "We know that if we come out and take care of business tonight and next Friday that we could have a chance to make it into playoffs."
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