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Offense struggles against Mitchell

September 23, 2009
For four quarters, the Crawford County defense went helmet-to-helmet with visiting Mitchell Friday night, several times keeping the Bluejackets out of the end zone when it looked like a touchdown was imminent. The Wolfpack offense, however, had its problems, and Mitchell finally got into the end zone late twice for a 14-0 Patoka Lake Athletic Conference win.

Crawford County’s Evan Aldridge upends Mitchell’s Dorian Cash in the fourth quarter of the Wolfpack’s 14-0 loss to the Bluejackets. Photo by Wade Bell
"We have not struggled that bad offensively all year long, with the run especially," Crawford County coach Brian Ruble said. "That was unexpected. I thought we would be able to run and pass against them. We did have some moments on passing, but, again, we've got a sophomore quarterback that's going though growing pains. It's tough, but we've got to persevere and go through this. It's something that doesn't get any easier."

The first half was full of plenty of defense, with neither squad putting any points on the board. Crawford County had a chance to score near the end of the first quarter, as the Wolfpack worked their way down to the 11-yard-line, but came up short on fourth down.

A 62-yard run by Dorian Cash followed by a 15-yard penalty on Crawford County put the Bluejackets in scoring position, at the Wolfpack 24, early in the second quarter. However, Mitchell also came up short, as Crawford County's defensive line forced the Bluejackets to give up the ball on downs.

The Crawford County offense then ran 12 plays, moving the ball to the Mitchell 26, but couldn't keep the drive going.

Taking over, the Bluejackets looked like they were set to score before halftime, moving the ball to the Crawford County 5 with 18.5 seconds to go. Chris Schwartz, however, stepped in to make the defensive play of the game, intercepting Tanner Powell's pass in the end zone to end the half.

"Overall, I was proud of the boys because they played four quarters and didn't let their heads (get) down and played hard the whole time defensively," Ruble said. "The defense played hard the whole time. I was very disappointed offensively because we're a lot better than that."

Mitchell gave up the ball early in the third quarter and was hit with an interference penalty following its punt. Crawford County worked a ground and passing strategy to move the ball down to the Mitchell 15. It was as close as the Wolfpack would get, however, as the Bluejackets held and took over on downs.

Mitchell seemed to gain some confidence at that point, and, six plays later, Powell threw a 44-yard pass to Thomas Isom for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 2:44 left in the quarter.

Crawford County got only two plays off on its next possession before Mitchell's Brandon Owens intercepted an Isaac Bowles' pass. That set up another Mitchell TD just seconds into the fourth period when Cash pushed in from four yards.

Crawford County was forced to give up the ball on downs on its next possession, but the Wolfpack defense fought back. Mitchell was hit with a holding penalty to force a third-and-20 situation. A second penalty on an illegal shift was declined, and the Bluejackets were set to punt. The next snap, however, went over Powell's head, and Crawford County grabbed the fumble.

Fired up, the Wolfpack offense pushed the ball down to the one-foot-line. But that's where it stopped as Mitchell's goal-line stand held. From there, Mitchell kept the ball on the ground and went on for the 14-0 win.

"I thought we were going to score on that because we have all year long," Ruble said. "We've got at least a yard on a quarterback sneak with our line push. We should have got that. It was really close."

Despite just 62 rushing yards — led by Jonathon Bowles who carried 12 times for 27 yards and Andrew Douglas who ran 11 times for 21 yards — the Wolfpack finished with 153 yards of offense. Isaac Bowles completed 11 for 21 passes for 91 yards, with Jonathon Bowles catching four of those for 39 yards. Evan Aldridge caught three passes for 24 yards, and Cody Cotner caught two passes for 23 yards. On defense, James Grant had eight tackles and a sack, Boone Kenner recorded four tackles with 11 assists, Jacob Thompson had five tackles and Schwartz had four tackles.

"There were some big catches," Ruble said of his team's passing game. "It kept our momentum going on those drives, but once we get inside that 20, we kind of bit ourselves again like we did at Pekin. We just couldn't get the ball in the end zone."

"We've just got to get back to some basics," he said. "We had some mistakes on our pulling guards we've got to look at and maybe correct a little bit there because we're not fast enough. Our backs are getting there before our pulling guards, and we've got to shore up some of our offensive line. The quarterback position has got to get better, too."

Ruble said his young team is still very much in the learning process. The season gets tougher at this point, however, with the Wolfpack hosting PLAC powerhouse Paoli Friday night.

"It's a maturing process for most of these," Ruble said of his players. "Unfortunately, (the seniors) don't get that opportunity next year that these other boys are going to have. But we've got to prepare for this year and the future, and that's what we intend to do."

"We're going from a team that is very comparable to us, that we could beat, to a team that everybody says is leaps and bounds better than we are," he said. "Our goal is to come out here and play four hard quarters and let the chips fall where they may. I think they'll do that. They responded tonight and played four quarters, all the way to the whistle. I expect that to happen this week."

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