After two games, and with a largely still-inexperienced squad, Cottage Grove football is still looking to find its footing in the 2019 season.
Last Friday, Sept. 13, Crook County made the long trek from Prineville and handily dispatched the Lions by a final score of 49-0, sending Cottage Grove to their first 0-2 start since the 2015 season.
In high school football there are no free agent signings, no draft and, for most schools, no recruitment of non-local players. Every season begins as a rough draft that needs work, regardless of talent on the listed roster. With a young team and a new head coach, the Lions are certainly still working out some kinks.
“This is a lot of guys’ second varsity game … so we have to coach them up. That’s our job as coaches,” said first-year head coach Chad Smith after the game.
“We’ll watch our film tomorrow and get ready for Stayton next week. Like I said, we have to continue to play. The season is still going to come and we’re going to have game number three on Friday. It’s all about how we respond and where we go from here,” continued Smith, emphasizing the ever-present need in sports to move on from letdowns and begin each week anew.
In a familiar script to week one - when Cottage Grove lost to Cascade High School 55-6 - Crook County got off to an early start in the first half, scoring on three plays in their first possession and carrying a 39-0 lead into halftime.
Led by a talented quartet of senior skill players - quarterback Brody Connell and running backs Kaden Horton, Kyle Knudtson and Clayton Berman - the Cowboys attacked the defense with an option offense similar to the one the Lions struggled with in the season opener, a challenge highlighted by Coach Smith.
“It’s tough. We played two teams at the beginning of the season that are both option teams, so it’s great for us to practice against. I don’t know if we’ll see a ton of that, but maybe we will as we move on. You have to be really disciplined to defend these two teams.”
In their second game, Cottage Grove made a change at quarterback and inserted sophomore Logan Lowrey into the starting lineup over junior Joey Spink who spent much of the game playing wide receiver on offense.
“He’s just the guy we decided to go with. He’s a good, tough kid. Obviously he lays it out there and he was limping around there at the end, but he plays hard. He’s not a big guy so we gotta coach him up on some things, so that’s what we have to continue to do: keep coaching. It’s only been two games,” said Smith.
Unfortunately, the quarterback change wasn’t enough to make the difference as the Lions had difficulty moving the ball on offense. Nonetheless, there was decided improvement on the defensive side of the ball, though not reflected on the scoreboard, as Cottage Grove was able to come up with some key stops that should motivate the team moving forward.
“Defensively I think we did well. We had a couple goal line stands, we had some interceptions, we made some stops … Offensively, they had the ball on our side of the 50 a lot of that first half and I think that first quarter, we battled,” Smith continued.
For the Lions, senior Jacob Dunn was once again a bright spot as his playmaking potential was evident on both sides of the ball. He caught an early 14-yard pass from Lowrey for the team’s first first down of the game while adding two interceptions in the first half alone.
Crook County moves to 2-0 on the season with their first win coming against Ridgeview. Cottage Grove will look to get their first win this week when they visit Stayton on Friday, Sept. 20. Stayton has started the season 1-1 with a 27-19 victory against Astoria last week.