5A Crater is 1-2 this season battling 6A opponents week after week under trying circumstances
5A Crater is 1-2 this season battling 6A opponents week after week under trying circumstances

[Editor’s note: The idea behind “Alphabet Stories” is to write one noteworthy athletics-related story about each OSAA-member school. We started with Adrian HS on Sept.18. Today’s story, more than six months later, is about Crater HS. The goal is to write two per week all the way to Yoncalla! While we will be relying upon athletic directors to furnish story ideas, anyone may offer suggestions by emailing [email protected]].

In 2019, Crater HS had a dream year on the gridiron. The 5A Comets went 11-2 overall and made their first state final, where they were edged by reigning state champion Thurston, the only team to defeat them in the regular season.

Fast forward 15 months and circumstances have changed for Crater. The team has been beset by injuries. Attrition, due to pandemic-related issues and delay, has reduced players out for football by 30 percent.  And rather than competing for another shot at a 5A title, the Comets are instead fighting tooth and nail to survive a schedule loaded with 6A opponents.

“It’s one of those years when you can’t win for losing,” said head coach Berk Brown.

Because of COVID-19, rather than playing regular league opponents, many of whom might be in areas with different risk levels for the virus, schools adopted a regional approach to scheduling. In the southern part of the state, only Crater, Eagle Point and Ashland are 5A schools. Ashland decided against playing a varsity schedule this season.

“It left us with playing no one or playing 6A,” Brown said.

Crater opted to play a five-week regular-season schedule that included four 6A opponents.

“It is now back to the old Southern Oregon Conference from the old four classifications days,” noted Crater AD David Heard. “It’s great for travel, but tough on the smaller 5A schools competitively, especially at the lower levels because of depth.”

“I wanted to give these kids an opportunity to play,” Brown said. “We’ll play anyone anywhere anytime, but it’s proven to be a unique challenge.”

Crater’s first three opponents have all been 6A schools. The Comets edged South Medford, 9-6, before dropping contests to Grants Pass, 21-13, and North Medford, 25-18. In the North Medford game last Friday, Crater led 18-0 before yielding 25 unanswered points.

“It wasn’t because our players are any less athletes or football players,” Brown said. “We ran out of gas.”

Last year, over 13 games, the team had only one player miss snaps, but Crater has been beset by injuries this season. Add roster size discrepancies, which allow 6A schools to play more people only on one side of the ball, and the Comets are at a competitive disadvantage every week.

Still, Crater has been in every game and could easily be 3-0.

“If we have our full roster, we were going to give those teams more of a challenge in the fourth quarter,” Brown said.

Crater gets a respite from 6A this week, with a game at Eagle Point. The Comets then close out the regular-season with another 6A test versus Roseburg, before seeing whom they play in the “culminating week.”

While Brown said that the year has been challenging, especially because of the unexpected injuries, he could not be prouder of his team.

“Our kids have battled their absolute tails off,” he said. “They are willing to do everything to overcome this adversity we’re facing. They’ve given us everything they have.”