Late sack preserves Crook County lead as they take a 35-32 victory over the Outlaws

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County quarterback Brody Connell dives into the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Crook Countys 35-32 victory over the Sisters Outlaws.The Crook County High School football team survived a late turnover to take a hard-fought 35-32 victory over the home standing Sisters Outlaws Friday night in the final preseason football game for both teams.

"A win is a win, and that's a positive," said Crook County head coach Ryan Cochran following the game. "I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty."

And ugly it was.

Early in the game it looked like the Cowboys were going to run away with the contest as they scored a pair of quick first quarter touchdowns to run out to a 15-0 lead.

On their first possession, the Cowboys drove straight down the field, scoring on a Brody Connell quarterback keeper. Erick Gonzalez ran the 2-point conversion attempt across the line, and the Cowboys led 8-0. After stopping the Outlaws, the Cowboys were back in business and quickly cashed in, this time scoring on a 24-yard pass from Connell to Dominic Langley. Connell's kick was good, and it looked like the Cowboys were off to the races.

Then came the penalties. Officially, it was 13 penalties on the Cowboys for just over 100 yards, but that doesn't even begin to tell the story. Several of those penalties brought back plays that had gained big yardage, including a 61-yard run where the penalty was called at least 40 yards away from the play.

"It's a thing we talked about all week, is taking care of ourselves," Cochran said. "At certain times, we blow that discipline for whatever reason. We have got to get that figured out. That has got to be a point of emphasis for us because against certain teams we aren't going to be able to overcome it like we did tonight."

With the Cowboys struggling with penalties, the Outlaws slowly worked their way back into the game.

Midway through the second quarter, Taylor Fendall dropped back to pass and found Trey Stadeli in the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown. The kick by Wyatt Hernandez was good, and the Outlaws trailed just 15-7.

On their next possession, Connell rolled left on an option play, pitching to Kaden Horton at the last possible instance. Horton rumbled down the sideline all the way from the Crook County 42-yard line to the Sisters 8 before he was finally run out of bounds.

However, the play was called back because of a hold on the other side of the offensive line, stalling what had started as a promising Crook County drive.

Once again, Sisters capitalized, driving down the field, scoring on an 8-yard run by Gator Haken. Once again, Hernandez's kick was good, and the Outlaws trailed by just a point with 6:44 remaining in the game.

Then came what may have been the most important possession of the game.

The Cowboys went on a 17-yard drive, finally scoring on a 3-yard pass from Connell to Garett Bernard. What made the drive especially impressive was that Crook County overcame 75 yards of penalties on the drive.

The kick was blocked, but the Cowboys went into the locker room leading 21-14.

The Cowboys received the kick off to start the second half but were unable to move the ball. After Connell punted, the Cowboys quickly regained possession as Elijah Becker intercepted a Fendall pass.

The Cowboys quickly moved the ball all the way to the Outlaw 10-yard line, but a Dominic Langley fumble was recovered by the Outlaws, ending the drive.

Carson Smith, 64, and Ethan Cossitt hit Sisters quarterback Taylor Fendall just as he throws the ball.Sisters then went on a time-eating drive, moving the ball all the way to the Crook County 12-yard line before the drive finally stalled. Still, they put points on the board as Hernandez kicked a 30-yard field goal, making the score 21-17.

The field goal was the only points either team could manage in the third quarter.

Then in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys once again found a way to move the ball down the field, scoring on a 12-yard keeper by Connell with 10:16 remaining in the game. The 2-point attempt failed, but the Cowboys were once again in control, leading 27-17.

Once again, the Outlaws refused to give up, quickly answering as Fendall hit Korbin Sharp on a 52-yard touchdown strike with 9:39 still remaining in the game. Once again, Hernandez made the kick, as the Outlaws closed to 27-24.

Seven plays later, the Cowboys scored again, this time on a 4-yard run by Kyle Knudtson. The touchdown looked like it would seal the win for the Cowboys, but once again, the Outlaws came storming back.

Five plays into their drive, Fendall hit Haken on a 50-yard pass. Just when it looked like Haken was going to score, Langley ran him down from behind, making a diving tackle on the 2-yard line.

For three plays, the Cowboys stopped the Outlaws. Then on fourth and one, Fendall dropped back to pass. The Cowboys looked like they had him sacked, but Fendall escaped, then hit Haken in the back corner of the end zone. Fendall then hit Sharp for the 2-point conversion, and the Outlaws were back to within three points.

The Cowboys had a chance to run out the clock, but Horton fumbled, and the Outlaws recovered with just over a minute left in the game.

Sisters moved the ball to midfield before an off sides penalty backed them up five yards. It was just the third penalty of the game for the Outlaws.

Then on second and 12, Fendall dropped back to pass, but this time, the Cowboys got to him as Carson Smith and Clayton Berman teamed up to sack Fendall all the way back on the 39-yard line.

"That was a pretty big stop," Smith said. "They had the momentum, and they were going to drive down the field, and with that sack, we took control, we took over their momentum, and it pretty much shut them down, and we took the win after that."

With just seconds left in the game, Fendall dropped back to pass one final time, but Knudtson broke up the play, and the Cowboys took possession with 31 seconds left in the game.

"The win was too important for me to even put it into words," Knudtson said. "We had a couple of mess ups that we really need to clean up, but I think that we will figure it out."

Connell took a knee and time expired as the Cowboys survived.

The Crook County offense ran 63 plays in the game, amassing 400 yards of offense, including 279 on the ground. However, the Sisters offense was nearly as potent, picking up 367 yards on 57 plays.

The Cowboys held the Outlaws to just 110 yards rushing, but taking advantage of three big pass plays, Sisters gained 256 yards through the air compared to just 121 for the Cowboys.

Connell led the Cowboy offense effectively, completing 10 of 14 passes, including two touchdown passes. Connell also led the Cowboys in rushing, carrying the ball 15 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

Knudtson carried the ball 13 times for 73 yards, while Horton had 14 carries for 65 yards.

Langley finished with five catches for 75 yards, while Bernard had two catches for nine yards and a touchdown.

Berman led the Cowboy defense with six tackles and one assist, while Jason Slawter, Hunter Bishop and Langley each had four tackles.

The Cowboys open league this Friday with a 7 p.m. game at The Dalles, while the Outlaws will play at Sweet Home.

"It wasn't very pretty, but it was still a step forward," Smith said. "We still took another win. We still are climbing up. Next week is just another step up, and we are ready for them. We are coming for them."

Crook County 35, Sisters 32

CCHS 15 6 0 14 ­– 35

Sisters 0 14 3 15 – 32

CC – Brody Connell 5-yard run. Erick Gonzalez run

CC – Connell 24-yard pass to Dominic Langley, Connell kick

S – Taylor Fendall 8-yard pass to Trey Stadeli, Wyatt Hernandez kick

S – Gator Haken 8-yard run, Hernandez kick

CC – Connell 3-yard pass to Garett Bernard, kick blocked

S – Hernandez 30-yard field goal

CC – Connell 12-yard run, Connell run failed

S – Fendall 52-yard pass to Korbin Sharp, Hernandez kick

CC – Kyle Knudtson 4-yard run

S – Fendall 1-yard pass to Haken, Fendall pass to Sharp

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