Waldport quarterback Kraig Pruett crashes through a hole in the line of scrimmage to score a touchdown for the Irish in their home game against Toledo on Friday, Nov. 1. The Irish led early but a strong comeback effort gave the Boomers a 46-32 victory.
WALDPORT – When two teams loaded with talented, experienced skill players face off, it’s not a stretch to expect a high-scoring shootout. From the opening kick, Waldport’s home game against the Toledo Boomers on Friday night did not disappoint.
And though the 46-32 for the Boomers made the game look lopsided for Toledo, it took just a few minutes for Waldport to rattle off two unanswered scores.
Senior Caleb Bullock fielded the opening kickoff for the Irish. Fifteen seconds later, Bullock was in the back of the end zone, and Waldport was up a touchdown.
“I felt like I got the team going, felt like we had a lot of momentum after that,” Bullock said. “It was a way to start my senior night, that’s for sure. It was a way to start a homecoming game.”
It took just a few minutes for Bullock to find the end zone again. Bullock took a pass from Kraig Pruett down the sideline and all the way to the goal. Less than a quarter in, Waldport was stealing the show.
“That’s huge. That kind of set the tone for the first half. Right after that we got a good defensive stop, and we were able to put another touchdown on the board,” explained Waldport head coach Mick Bittick. “But Toledo definitely wasn’t interested in rolling over for us. They came back strong. Some of our younger linemen who were owning the game in the first quarter started getting a little tired, a little beat up.”
And while the Irish were sparkling on offense in the first 12 minutes, Toledo was faltering.
“First half, we came out really flat, we had some mistakes, we gave up some big plays,” explained Toledo quarterback Jackson Cross. “In the second half, our coaches had great adjustments for us. We adjusted to what they were doing, came out and played a great second half.”
Toledo’s first move came even before the half ended. The Boomer’s dumped their no-huddle tempo and worked out of the huddle.
“We stopped going hurry-up because every single play we called, they were yelling,” Toledo head coach Bruce Marthaller explained. “They knew every single play we ran that first quarter. I don’t know if they had a play sheet or if they just had us that scouted out or what.”
The Boomers were able to move the ball well from then on. Cross threw for 309 yards and three scores on 15 completions. Five of them were to his brother, Cameron Cross, who capped off his Boomer career with 154 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The elder Cross also threw one pass, a 15-yard completion.
“Cameron Cross played amazing,” Marthaller said. “He really stepped it up well and finished his senior year really well.”
For Jackson Cross, a junior, it was all the sweeter to be throwing touchdowns to his brother.
“It’s pretty nice,” he said.
For the Irish, the offense started to struggle when the Boomers keyed in on Bullock, who spent much of the second half in double coverage.
“Me and Kraig, it was obvious,” Bullock said of Toledo’s defensive focus. “Everybody and their mothers could see it. That’s what happens when you have top receivers, they’re going to key on us.”
Part of the problem for the Irish had started days before when their usual starting quarterback, Trenton Marquart, suffered a hand injury that left him unable to throw. Thus Pruett, usually Waldport’s number two receiver, was forced to throw the passes instead of catching them.
With Pruett under center, Bullock was the focus of Toledo’s defensive backs, and they had significant success in containing him. With Bullock under control, Toledo’s defense had a much easier time.
“The biggest thing we did against their offense was try to take away number eight, Bullock, as much as we could, because we know he’s their guy,” Cross said. “Our D-ends played a lot better to contain their runs, Jon and Kyle had great plays on defense, making big picks for us, down in our territory, deep when they were going to get a first down.”
Marthaller complimented the performance of his defensive backs in keeping the Waldport passing game under control.
“It’s two games in a row that they’ve played really well. You take out of the equation that Bullock is the best receiver in the league, and he had a big play to start the second half, but from that point on we were really solid,” he said. “We made some adjustments and talked about things and tried to simplify things.”
Bittick, meanwhile, was proud of his quarterback’s performance and was fully aware of the limitations that having Pruett in the backfield presented.
“Kraig did a great job in there. But Kraig is an outstanding receiver, and so we lost a great receiver to move him to quarterback,” he said. “It’s too easy for him to just focus on Caleb, a couple times he was in double coverage. A couple of our younger kids caught some balls, but without Kraig out there as a receiver, and Trenton on the bench with a broken hand, it made it really hard for us to move the ball late in the game.”
While the Irish had some success with their running game, by they time they had it dialed in they were in a bad spot. Toledo scored a touchdown in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to take a 27-25 lead, then executed a successful onside kick and scored again to start pulling away.
“We had some success running the ball. We found a spot on the line going over Jonah Land where I thought we could move the ball fairly well,” Bittick said. “The only problem was that we had a couple defensive breakdowns in our coverage, and they got a couple quick scores. So instead of just running time, we had to throw the ball again. A little bit of that was an experience thing. Scott Kowalski played his heart out at receiver for us, made a couple big catches, but when they know you’re going to throw, it’s pretty easy for them to sit back and take away the deep routes. That was hard for us, we couldn’t move the ball in big chunks.”
Instead, Toledo took the big chunks. Dylan Purdom and Cameron Cross each returned an interception for a touchdown in the final period. Waldport could not return the favor.
“We were getting confused on some of our coverage, there was some confusion as to who had the deep ball,” Bittick said. “So we’d break off to cover the route underneath, and we’d let the deep ball go. By then, the safety wasn’t rolling over, I think he was playing a little too much in the middle of the field. Just a little problem on the read.”
Jackson Cross had high praise for both.
“Dylan, he’s the hardest worker you’ll know,” the quarterback said. “Cameron, he almost didn’t come out for football this year; we convinced him to come out. He had the game of his life tonight.”
Purdom also rushed for 72 yards and two scores.
Marthaller saw the win as a stepping-stone for the Boomers.
"It’s good for us. We graduate four, we’ve got a lot of guys coming back. It’s nice for us to build on,” he said. “It’s kind of a roller coaster for us – when we get guys healthy, we’re a decent football team. We’ve just got to get guys healthy.”
And while Bittick’s program will lose eight seniors, he is optimistic for the future, as well.
“Huge hats off to Toledo, they played a great game, showed tremendous sportsmanship,” he said. “This wasn’t a great year for football in Lincoln County, but I think both of these groups are going to do the county proud over the next couple of years."
Waldport’s final score of the game came from senior Scottie Town. Town, who suffered a traumatic brain injury earlier in his life, took a handoff for more than 60 yards to make the score. Town also successfully kicked the extra point after and put the resulting kickoff deep into Boomer territory.
“He’s a great kid, huge heart. We had a big desire to get him the ball when we could,” Bittick said. “He’s just a wonderful kid who everyone on the team loves and who they wanted to see get the ball. That was actually something that was asked for by the seniors the other day, they said ‘Hey, can we get Scottie the ball?’”
Toledo freshman running back Raeann Hogel took one carry for seven yards on Toledo’s final possession. Hogel is the lone female on the Boomer football roster. She was brought down by Waldport junior defensive back Emilia Ribald, the only female player for the Irish. For the complete article see the 11-06-2013 issue.
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