Sep. 10—Seven days after posting a 49-point first half to begin its season, things were a little different for Crater Friday night.
For the second straight year, a historically Skyline Conference team rolled into Dutch Meyer Field and weren't fazed by the Class 5A Comets. Just as Mazama did in 2021, No. 8-ranked Henley got up early and played stout defense from start to finish on its way to handing seventh-ranked Crater a 35-0 loss in the Comets' home opener in Central Point.
"First of all, we played a really good football team," said Crater head coach Berk Brown. "They executed and they did the things that they planned to do really well. On our end, we didn't execute and we had a lot of mental mistakes on both sides of the ball that led to the score you saw tonight. My hats off to them and (Henley head coach Alex Stork), he's got a really, really good group that I think is going to compete for a 4A championship."
Stork, in his sixth year at the helm with the Hornets, goes back with Brown to their days at Southern Oregon University when the former was an outside linebacker when the latter served as the Raiders' defensive coordinator.
On this night, it's was Stork's Hornets who got the best of Brown and the Comets, though.
Nearly a year to the day in which the Comets suffered a 42-14 loss to Mazama, the struggles against another 4A opponent were there from the beginning.
Whether it was on the ground or through the air, the Comets' were simply unable to move the ball with any sort of consistency against the now-Big Sky Conference Hornets.
In its first four drives of the game, Crater fumbled, punted and turned the ball over on downs twice, the second of which coming from inside the red zone midway through the second quarter.
A week after he ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries, Henley's defense limited Crater senior running back Andrew Kelly to just 15 yards on the ground.
It was the same kind of story through the air for the Comets, as junior quarterback Shane Wood was just 9-of-23 for 76 yards and an interception. Wood had just all of one incompletion in 11 pass attempts last week against North Bend, recording 212 passing yards and two touchdowns.
"We had a lot of dropped balls tonight that could have been potential first downs," said Brown. "Up front, we did not operate at the precision that we did last week. When you don't run the ball and they can sit back and then blitz you and sit in coverage, it makes things hard. We have to work on our execution, maybe simplify some things and it's not that we need to go back to the drawing board but we just need to do the things that we do well — and we kind of got away from that tonight."
Henley (2-0) struck quick against a Crater defense that allowed just 88 yards of total offense a week ago. Senior quarterback Shaw Stork connected with receiver Luke Bennett on an 85-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the game to get an early 7-0 lead.
After Crater turned it over on downs on its second possession, Henley doubled its lead on junior running back Logan Whitlock's 15-yard TD run with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Hornets capped their impressive first half on both sides of the ball with Stork's second TD pass of the night, a 7-yard strike to a wide-open Chris Janney with seven seconds remaining before halftime.
Whitlock, who added touchdown runs of 6 and 13 yards in the third quarter before a running clock kicked in, carried the ball 17 times for 212 yards and three TDs. Stork, one of the Big Sky's most experienced quarterbacks, finished 7-for-12 for 194 yards and a pair of touchdown passes with no interceptions.
The Hornets duo combined to account for 293 yards of total offense in the first half alone.
"Boy they're good," said Brown. "I didn't give Stork enough credit and left our corners on an island — and he made us pay for it. Whitlock is one hell of a running back, that kid — he's elusive and you can't tackle him around the hips so he's going to make you miss. We key enough on him."
Crater will look to get back on track when it opens Midwestern League play next Friday night on the road against Springfield (1-1), which was handed its first loss of the season, 41-20, by Marist Catholic. It's the second of three games away from Dutch in the first month of the season for Brown's squad — a four-week span in which the Comets' coach knew he was going to find out a whole lot about his team.
"We're going to need to lick our wounds a little bit and then go back and watch some tape and learn from it," said Brown. "It's all eyes on the conference now. I think we can give people some fits as long as we operate as we should — and we didn't do that tonight."
Henley 14 7 14 0—35
Crater 0 0 0 0—0
H — Bennett 85 pass from Stork (Cheyne kick)
H — Whitlock 15 run (Cheyne kick)
H — Janney 8 pass from Stork (Cheyne kick)
H — Whitlock 5 run (Cheyne kick)
H — Whitlock 13 run (Cheyne kick)
Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.