Crookston no match for West Central Area's bruising attack in 24-6 loss
BARRETT — His team battered, bullied and defeated, Scott Butt took ownership of the situation.
"I screwed us up this week," the Crookston football coach said. "I didn't make us — we practiced, but we didn't physically hit a lot. We spent a lot of time walking through things ... but we gotta be more physical in practice."
The Pirates walked onto the field against West Central Area/Ashby the smaller, less imposing team. Sooner rather than later, it showed.
The Knights had two lengthy touchdowns drives in the second quarter, doing little more than handing the ball off and letting their backs go to work. Anthony Sykora, Jaden Norby and Jordan Lohse pulverized the Pirates' defense, as West Central Area went into halftime with a 10-point lead that seemed larger.
Crookston fought back in the third quarter, but the Knights were just too strong and just too good, winning, 24-6, on Friday night to hand the Pirates their first loss of the season.
"They're a big, physical team, and they just wore us out," Butt said. "We've got some guys that are a little bit larger, but they're really big compared to what we are. I thought that the game just was a matter of them beating us up all game long. We ran out of gas."
The Pirates had plenty in the beginning. Their opening drive looked a lot like their first possession in last weekend's season opener against Roseau: with consistent medium gains on the ground from senior quarterback Easton Tangquist and sophomore tailback Ethan Boll, they moved into the Knights' red zone.
While the drive ended with a failed fourth-down try, it turned out not to be for nothing. Crookston forced West Central Area into a punting situation at their own 20, and the Knights' center snapped the ball well over the punter's head. Cade DeLeon (Jr.) shot off the line and recovered the ball in the end zone, putting the Pirates on the board (their 2-point try was no good, however).
"Our defense, they absolutely fly around," Butt said. "... You can, when you're a little bit smaller, fly around on defense and beat those offensive linemen."
But West Central Area pushed back back. In the second quarter, Sykora took a toss right and sprinted 53 yards down the sideline, and Norby — a 6-foot-4, 240-pound all-purpose weapon who's committed to North Dakota for football — punched it home from three yards out to finish off a 10-play, 82-yard touchdown drive, which was followed by a 2-point conversion.
The Knights appeared backed up on their next drive, after two holding penalties set them up with a 3rd-and-23 at their own 15. But Lohse took a jet-sweep reverse and gained 32, shedding tackles left and right. Seven plays later, Norby found the end zone again.
It's only a 10-point game, Butt reminded his team at halftime. We still have a chance. To take advantage of it, he drew up a few more pitch plays, utilizing the outside running game as a way to counteract West Central Area's physicality in a way Crookston didn't do in the first half.
It worked to an extent, as the Pirates held their own in the third quarter. Jaxon Wang (Sr.) recovered a Norby fumble to squash a drive, and Tangquist scrambled to his right and hit Zach Brown (Sr.) for a 19-yard completion on 3rd-and-long to move into Knight territory for the first time of the half.
The drive stalled out, though, at the West Central 31. The Knights went 69 yards in 10 plays, and Sykora scored with 4:36 remaining, effectively sealing things.
Crookston wasn't ready for the Knights' physicality, and Butt knew it. Now, he wants to atone for what he considers his earlier mistake. With the Pirates having a bye next week, he hopes to get his team hitting some more.
"Just more flying around, getting off the ball as fast as we can," Butt said. "We can hit the sled, we don't have to hit each other. We gotta come off the sled, we gotta come off the ground and get there faster and get used to hitting things at full speed."
But even though the Pirates weren't at that level on Friday, But was able to take solace in their effort.
"I thought our kids came out and played hard and well in the second half," he said. "Everybody gave it their all. We just got outmatched."
UP NEXT: The Pirates have a bye next week. They'll return to action on Friday, Oct. 23 at home against Otter Tail Central. The Bulldogs, 0-2 on the season, played West Central Area on Oct. 3, losing 30-18 after leading 18-0 at halftime.
Last year, on a muddy Ed Widseth Field, Crookston beat Otter Tail Central 16-6 to close out the regular season.
"They're big, they're physical, they had a good game with West Central Area here," Butt said. "... I do know this: it will be another game where two teams try to run the heck out of the ball, and I think we'll be ready to go."
West Central Area 0-16-0-8—24
- 3:29 first quarter (Crookston): Cade DeLeon fumble recovery in end zone (Easton Tangquist run failed)
- 7:55 second quarter (WCA): Jaden Norby 3-yard run (Evan Paulson pass to Torin Olson)
- 2:13 second quarter (WCA): Jaden Norby 4-yard run (Paulson pass to Norby)
- 4:36 fourth quarter (WCA): Anthony Sykora 5-yard run (Paulson pass to Ryder Staples)
- Crookston: Easton Tangquist 1-6-1, 19 yards
- West Central Area: Evan Paulson 3-9, 58 yards
- Crookston: Ethan Boll 16-68, Easton Tangquist 18-29, Jaxon Wang 4-20, Jacob Hesby 1-4
- West Central Area: Anthony Sykora 18-119-1, Jaden Norby 14-68-2, Jordan Lohse 6-37, Hunter Norby 1-6, Nate Kisgen 4-2, Mattson Hoff 1-1
- Crookston: Zach Brown 1-19
- West Central Area: Jaden Norby 1-28, Tate Christenson 1-23, Anthony Sykora 1-7
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