'The only time we got stopped was when we stopped ourselves'
EUGENE, Ore. - If you are just keeping score, it is impossible to see the progress of a team.
The South Eugene Axemen lost to the Crater Comets Friday night, 42-32, at home.
But the Axemen played a solid game and they are a much improved team.
And it shows.
Friday night was Senior Night, and the seniors performed well, with Connor Still scoring twice, putting the Axemen up 13-0 with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
Crater running back Davey MCollum scored a minute later on a short dive to the make the score 13-7.
With 8:55 minutes left in the second quarter, Axemen wide receiver caught a shot pass and carried it into the endzone. The PAT was wide, making the score Axemen 19, Comets 7.
The Comets answered with a screen pass to wide receiver Dylan Morgan with 7:23 left in the first half, closing the score to 19-14.
Two minutes later Crater Comets safety Davey McCollum picked off a South Eugene pass and was immediately slammed by two Axemen, causing him to fumble and the Axemen to recover possession of the ball.
With less than a minute left in the first half, Crater Comets wide receiver Kory Bennett caught a short pass at about the ten-yard line and shook off three tacklers to power the ball into the endzone. The Comets chose to go for two points, tossed a little pass to Dylan Morgan, and pulled ahead on the scoreboard, 22 Crater, 19 South Eugene.
Nearing the end of the third quarter, the Axemen were forced to punt, but the snap was bad, the punter fumbled the ball, and the Comets recovered on South's 15-yard line. Two plays later Crater scored on a dive play. The PAT was blocked, leaving the score Crater 28, South Eugene 19.
The Axemen moved the ball on their next possession, and the Comets drew a personal foul penalty for a late hit on the quarterback, moving the ball to the Crater 20-yard line. The Axmen capitalized on the penalty and scored with a pass to Thayne Kollmorgen. The PAT made the score Crater 28, South Eugene 26.
Five minutes into the fourth quarter Crater Comet wide receiver Kory Bennett scored on a short pass, but a penalty called the ball back and nullified the score. But the Comets quickly scored with a pass over the middle to wide receiver Dallin George, expanding the Crater lead to 35-26.
The Axmen moved the ball down the field, tossed a short pass into the endzone, only to see a Crater Comet defender step in front of the receiver to intercept the pass.
With 4:40 left in the fourth quarter, Crater Comets running back Davey McCollum ran a sweep around the left end to score. Crater 42, South Eugene 26.
The Axemen managed one last score after the two-minute horn, with a pass to Liam Duncan, making the final score of the game South Eugene Axemen 32, Crater Comets 42.
Gathering his troops at the endzone after the game, Head Coach Chris was fairly upbeat about the team's progress.
"We did a good job," Miller said. "We did a lot of good football tonight. We made a lot of good plays. I don't have to tell you. You're smart enough now to figure it out. We lost the game because of what we did, not what they did. Offensively, the only time we got stopped was when we stopped ourselves. They couldn't stop us. We just had some penalties, mistakes, missed blocks. "
Aware of the fact that sometimes the most painful injuries in a game are mental rather than physical, Coach Miller praised his seniors. "You seniors, I couldn't be more proud of you. You seniors, be proud of yourselves. You guys did a good job tonight. You played a lot of good football."
The season is almost over, but there is still work to be done, Miller said. "The reason they beat us is because of mistakes we made. Those things happen as you are growing and building a program."
Even with a disappointing season record, there is still a chance for the Axemen to enter the playoffs. "If we can go over and beat Thurston," Coach Miller reminded his team, "we can still get another home game. So let's make that our goal."
The South Eugene Axemen play their last regular season game against Thurston on Thurston's home turf next Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Dan Morrision and Oregon NewsLab are covering South Eugene football this fall.