unblemished record of the Crook County football team ended Friday at the hands of another unbeaten, Pendleton. The No. 8 Buckaroos built a 28-point lead at the half and added touchdowns in each of the final two quarters to spoil the Intermountain Conference opener for the Cowboys 42-8 at Round-Up Stadium.
"We played hard," said CCHS head coach Steve Turner. "We just didn't make plays, whereas the Pendleton kids made some big plays."
Crook County was without two of its biggest offensive powers against the Buckaroos (2-0 IMC, 5-0 overall). Senior offensive lineman Dan Story is out for the season with a broken leg, while senior running back Jamie Swindle, who led the IMC averaging 8.64 yards per carry going into the contest, missed Friday's game because of illness. Coach Turner said he is not certain when Swindle could return.
"Those two kids have contributed a tremendous amount. They're three year starters," Turner said. "They have a great amount of experience. When you're playing in what you think is going to be a close game, to miss two of those guys, you miss a lot of experience and you need that when you play a team like Pendleton."
As the game opened, Crook County (0-1 IMC, 3-1 overall) found some momentum early when senior Jared Nash recovered a Buckaroo fumble on the third play of the game.
The Cowboys made a first down shortly after, but couldn't connect on a fourth-and-10 play at the Pendleton 30, turning the ball over on downs.
With 5:56 left in the first on third-and-seven, the Buckaroos made the possession count as senior 6-foot-2, 200-pound running back Jason Lambert discovered the end zone on a 59-yard run to put Pendleton up by a touchdown. The Buckaroos added a 48-yard punt return and junior Kenley Wallis secured both extra points to give the players in the green and gold uniforms a 14-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
"It was a big disappointment," Turner said. "We had forced them into a turnover early in the game and we didn't take advantage of it. Then, to have them come back to score on a third and long play, it didn't break our back, but it really put us in a bad spot. The punt return really took the momentum."
After a 28-0 Pendleton lead late in the second quarter, the Cowboys threatened to score when CCHS sophomore quarterback Chad Swindle ran his way to the Buckaroo 1-yard line with six seconds remaining in the half. The Cowboys were held just outside the end zone as time expired.
For the night, Crook County came away with nearly as many total yards as Pendleton, tallying 249 to the Bucks 257.
"We competed hard. We never backed off. We played hard from the first kickoff to the last play," Turner said.
"One of the things we wanted to do was control the ball and hold onto it, and we did that, but we gave up the big plays. So offensively, we kind of came close. Defensively, we didn't."
In the third quarter, CCHS senior Aron Brundidge tackled a Pendleton player and forced a fumble. The ball was picked up by Crook County senior Kurt McCormick, who ran into the end zone from 40 yards out, only to have the ball come back on a Cowboy clipping penalty.
With less than a minute remaining in the game, sophomore Matt Bliss came through with a 1-yard effort to plunge across the goal line for the score. Swindle's run on the conversion gave the Cowboys 8.
Chad Swindle ended the night with 10 of 25 passing, 122 yards and added 33 yards on 11 carries on the ground. Sophomore Justin Barden rushed 12 times for 35 yards for CCHS, while Bliss added 13 attempts for 39 yards.
Bliss led Cowboy receivers with three catches for 48 yards, with Brad Hunter bringing in two grabs for 40. Colt Conley led the team in tackles, finding himself in on seven. Coach Turner also mentioned outstanding play by senior lineman Brandon Jasmin.
Junior Quarterback Brian Nooy ended the night three for three with 72 yards for the Buckaroos, while Lambert finished with five carries for 76.