Vikings storm back after digging an early deficit, but can't complete the comeback against visiting Crater

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove quarterback Taylor Jensen winds up to throw a pass to wideout Ethan Thursam during last Friday's play-in game against Crater.What a way to go out.

The curtain did close on the Forest Grove football team’s season Friday night in a Class 6A play-in loss against Crater. But while the Vikings dropped a 41-39 decision to end their season, they sure made the ride entertaining, falling behind early before rallying against the Comets.

Trailing by as many as 15 points in the opening stanza, Forest Grove (4-6) staged a furious third-quarter comeback to take a 39-35 lead, but the Comets had the final answer, as Ty Fox found Kory Bennett in the back of the end zone from 9 yards out with 10:26 remaining for the winning score.

“It was a fight to the end, a dog fight. Every game’s like that,” said Cody Smith, who got the home faithful rocking with a long touchdown run on a trick play late in the third quarter. “Just a great season, absolutely great season. So glad that when I transferred here last year, that it was the most amazing thing that I ever did.”

The Vikings had two chances after that Fox-to-Bennett strike to retake the lead, but the first stalled out near the middle of the field midway through the period. The second started on the Vikings’ 13-yard line with just more than two minutes remaining. The home team earned two first downs to move to its own 46 but could go no further thanks to three incomplete passes, a false start penalty and a recovered fumble, all of which forced Forest Grove to turn the ball over on downs.

“It was back and forth, and it just didn’t fall the way we wanted it to fall,” said Gio Tayetto, who led the Vikings’ ground game with 23 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. “It’s been an amazing four years. I love Forest Grove to death. The coaches have been great, the line has been amazing, and I just love everybody and I wish the best luck for them next year.”

All the way to the end, the Vikings kept swinging, and they had some fun pulling a few trick plays out of the playbook. One of the biggest plays of the night was Smith’s 51-yard rushing score that staked Forest Grove to its final lead, 39-35.

On a fourth-and-6 near midfield, the Vikings faked a punt and used some misdirection to draw the Comets defense toward the far sideline. Smith, who patiently stood still and hid the ball, then broke up the left sideline and made it all the way to the end zone.

Earlier on, the Vikings struck first on Taylor Jensen’s 52-yard pass to Zac Collins just 99 seconds into the game. But the Comets scored three successive touchdowns over the next four minutes to go up 21-6.

Crater held on for a 28-19 halftime lead, but after play resumed the Vikings made their charge. Tayetto’s 1-yard plunge less than 90 seconds into the second half cut the lead to three. Forest Grove benefitted from Crater mistakes on its next two drives, recovering a fumble on a kickoff and getting a 61-yard interception return from Collins to set up drives. The Vikings had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns both times, so midway through the period, Forest Grove led 31-28.

Crater answered right back on McCollum’s 3-yard rushing touchdown less than three minutes later, setting the stage for each team’s final score.

Jensen was 19-for-37 with 224 yards and two touchdowns. Collins led the receivers with four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Ethan Thursam added five receptions for 65 yards, and Matiaco chipped in 62 yards and a score on four catches.

“It was a great year, a lot of improvement since last year,” Collins said. “It’s not fun losing a game like this, but it’s better than getting blown out.”

“This team, it’s like my family, my second family,” Smith said. “I could come here, tell them anything. They were the best, the best people I’ve ever met.”

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