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The Cowboys overcome five turnovers and a scoreless first half as they come from behind to defeat the Indians in an injury-plagued game

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Erick Gonzalez bulls his way across the goal line for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Crook County's win over Molalla Friday night. Gonzalez scored two touchdowns in the game.

In a hard-hitting game that saw both teams lose players to injuries, the Crook County Cowboys came from behind to upset the Molalla Indians 21-12 Friday night at Ward Rhoden Stadium in Prineville.

Crook County managed to find a way to win, despite committing five turnovers in the contest.

"Adversity and handling adversity was kind of the name of the game tonight," said Crook County head coach Ryan Cochran. "I think the defense played a heck of a game and that kept us in it for all of the turnovers that we had. You know, finding a way. They found a way to take care of business."

The Cowboys received bad news Thursday, when they lost starting fullback and middle linebacker Jacob Kasberger to an injury that occurred at Thursday's practice.

However, Crook County didn't miss a beat. With Jason Slawter and Erick Gonzalez filling in for Kasberger on offense, the Cowboys were able to amass 223 yards rushing.

The Cowboys had more bad news as they lost tailback Kyle Brady to an injury late in the first quarter of the game.

Molalla also lost players to injuries in the game, most notably starting quarterback and team leader Chase Jazdinski.

"You know, it was a hard game that we lost our quarterback and senior leader, Chase Jazdinski, right away," said Molalla head coach Tim Baker. "He is a huge part of our team. I thought we drove the ball well, we just couldn't bounce back from Jazdinski's injury."

Crook County kicker Victor Ramirez drove the opening kickoff into the end zone as the Indians took possession on their own 20-yard line.

Two short runs left the Indians with a third and seven before Jazdinski dropped back to pass and hit Jeff Larsen for a 33-yard gain and a first down.

Molalla drove all the way to the down to the Crook County 20-yard line. A fumbled snap cost Molalla 15 yards before a false start left the Indians with a fourth and 25 on the Cowboy 40-yard line.

Once again, Jazdinski dropped back to pass, and once again he found Larsen, this time for 35 yards and a first and goal on the Crook County 5-yard line. On second down, Jazdinski attempted to carry the ball up the middle but was stopped for no gain. Jazdinski failed to get up after the play and left the game with what looked like a knee injury.

Still, the Indians scored on the following play as Emmett Smyth bulled into the end zone from 4 yards out to give Molalla a 6-0 lead.

On their first possession, the Cowboys quickly moved the ball down the field, picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground, and Crook County drove 80 yards in 10 plays. On third and goal from the one, Kyle Knudtson carried the ball up the middle and initially looked like he scored on the play. However, Knudtson fumbled before he crossed the goal line, and the Indians recovered in the end zone.

Without Jazdinski, the Indians were unable to move the ball, gaining just 3 yards before they were forced to punt. The punt rolled dead at the Crook County 46-yard line.

On the next play, Zachary Rictor rushed up the middle for a 4-yard gain, but he fumbled the ball after a hard hit from Molalla. The Indians recovered the ball at midfield. Molalla second string quarterback Jacob Nix threw an incomplete pass, then Nix bobbled the quarterback snap but managed to get back to the line of scrimmage.

On third down, Silverio Lopez carried the ball up LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Molalla's Jeff Larsen is tackled after catching a pass for a big gain. Larsen caught five passes for 197-yards in a losing cause as the Indians lost to the Crook County Cowboys 21-12.the middle for 6 yards, leaving the Indians with a fourth and four from the Crook County 44. Molalla elected not to punt and handed the ball off to Lopez, who was stopped short of the first down.

A 1-yard gain, followed by a false start left the Cowboys with a second and long as time was running out in the first quarter. Crook County quarterback Colton Burkhardt dropped back to pass and tried to hit Garett Bernard in the right flat. However, Larsen stepped in front, intercepting the ball, taking it down to the Crook County 39-yard line.

One play later, Nix hit Lopez for a 13-yard gain down to the Crook County 26-yard line. The quarter ended as Nix threw an incomplete pass.

The Crook County defense stiffened and the Cowboys took over on downs on their own 18-yard line. With Knudtson, Burkhardt, Rictor, Slawter and Clayton Berman all carrying the ball, the Cowboys quickly moved up the field to the Molalla 36-yard line. On fourth and three, Burkhardt dropped back to pass and threw his second interception of the game, as Larsen once again stepped in front of the intended receiver.

Once again, the Crook County defense came up big, forcing the Indians to punt. Dominic Langley returned the punt up all the way from the Molalla 45-yard line, however, the punt return was called back by a holding penalty on the Cowboys, moving the ball all the way back to the Crook County 35-yard line.

Facing a fourth and 11, the Cowboys punted the ball, but Burkhardt's punt went off the side of his foot and straight out of bounds as the Indians took over on the Crook County 35-yard line.

An 8-yard gain by Lopez coupled with a horse collar call on the Cowboys gave the Indians a first down on the Crook County 14-yard line, but once again the Cowboy defense came up big as Burkhardt intercepted a Nix pass and returned the ball to the 5-yard line where time ran out in the first half.

The Cowboys received the kickoff to start the third quarter and drove 70 yards in 12 plays, finally scoring on a 5-yard run by Erick Gonzalez. The kick by Ramirez was good and Crook County led 7-6.

"Oh it was exciting," said Gonzalez of his first touchdown. "Tonight was my first chance to run the ball except for some 2-point conversions. It was fun, and I'm excited."

Once again, Ramirez drove the kickoff into the end zone. At the half, Molalla made the decision to switch quarterbacks as Damian Pingo replaced Nix behind center.

"Jacob Nix came in and he's a sophomore and still learning," Baker said "He did an admirable job in there, but we decided to make a change in the third quarter."

On his first play from scrimmage, Pingo carried the ball around the right side for a 7-yard gain.

On the next play, Pingo bobbled the snap from center losing, 8 yards. On third and 11, Pingo hit Larsen across the middle for a 10-yard gain, leaving the Indians with a fourth and one. Once again, the Indians decided to gamble, and once again the Cowboy defense stopped the Indians as Crook County took over on downs on the 28.

However, the Cowboys failed to take advantage, fumbling the ball on their first play from scrimmage, giving the ball back to the Indians.

After losing yardage on their next two plays, the Indians were forced into a third and long. Pingo dropped back to pass and threw the ball to Larsen on the left sideline at about the 35-yard line.

Crook County safety Dominic Langley dove for the ball, missing it by inches as Larsen snared the ball and raced 76-yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but the Indians led 12-7 with 2:39 left in the third quarter.

Neither team moved the ball on their next possession as both teams were forced to punt.

The Cowboys regained possession on the Molalla 27-yard line. Three plays later, Berman scored on a 17-yard run. After a penalty on each team, Gonzalez scored on the 2-point conversion, giving Crook County a 15-12 lead with 8:48 left in the game.

Once again, the Cowboys forced the Indians to punt, and Langley returned the ball to the Crook County 33-yard line. From there, Crook County pounded the ball up the middle using a full house backfield. With 275-pound lineman Caleb Parrott playing fullback and Gonzalez pounding the ball up the middle, it took nine plays to go 33 yards, with Gonzalez scoring his second touchdown of the game with 3:33 left on the clock.

On the extra point attempt the snap was bobbled and Ramirez picked the ball up and sprinted around the right end. Ramirez was stopped short of the goal line, but Bo Edwards, a Molalla defender, was injured on the play.

For more than 20 minutes he laid on the field, as both Prineville ambulances were on other calls. Once the ambulance finally arrived, the player was transported to the hospital. CCHS reported Saturday afternoon that Edwards was recovering at home.

When play finally resumed, Crook County kicked off. The remainder of the game was filled with penalties, mostly on Molalla, as several personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called.

With time running out, Pingo dropped back to pass and Brodie Connell intercepted the pass, returning the ball all the way from the Crook County 25 to the Molalla 19.

An illegal horse collar tackle was called on the play followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Molalla, moving the ball to the 5-yard line. From there, Burkhardt took a knee as time ran out.

The Cowboys racked up 306 yards of offense in the game, including 83 yards in the air, while amassing 23 first downs.

The Indians finished with 14 first downs and 276 total yards of offense. Molalla did most of the damage through the air, picking up 219 yards passing. The three quarterbacks were a combined 8-23 with Larsen catching five passes for 197 yards.

Knudtson led the Cowboy ground attack with 66 yards rushing, while Gonzalez finished with 55, and Slawter pitched in with 35. Knudtson also led the Cowboys in receiving yardage with 39.

"Our offensive line did some great things," Cochran said. "It was a battle up front for sure. It was a very big win for us, especially with Molalla beating Gladstone last week. You never know what's going to happen in our league."

With the win, the Cowboys improved to 1-1 in Tri-Valley Conference play and 2-4 overall, while the Indians fell to 2-1 in conference play and 3-3 overall.

The Indians host the league-leading Estacada Rangers, 2-0, 5-1, on Thursday, while the Cowboys go on the road to take on the Gladstone Gladiators, 1-1, 3-3. Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Molalla 6 0 6 0 - 12

Crook County 0 0 7 14 - 21

Molalla - Casey Brooks 4-yard run. Kick no good.

Crook County - Erick Gonzalez 5-yard run. Ramirez kick.

Molalla - Jeff Larsen 76-yard pass from Damian Pingo. Pass failed.

Crook County - Clayton Berman 17-yard run. Gonzalez run.

Crook County - Gonzalez 1-yard run. Kick failed.

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