DUFUR – The Sherman Huskies managed just 27 yards of offense in the opening half and committed 135 yards in penalties for the game, and still had a chance to pull off a comeback win over Crane.
Sherman battled back from a 20-0 halftime deficit and outscored Crane by a 34-16 margin in the final 24 minutes of action, but a two-point conversion pass with 33 seconds left in regulation fell short, as the Mustangs held on for a 36-34 victory Friday at Dufur High School.
With 3:22 left on the clock, the Huskies had the ball on their own 30-yard line down by a 36-28 score.
On a fourth down play, a pass interference play gave the Huskies new life from the 50-yard line.
Two plays later, Maverick Winslow scampered 27 yards to the Crane 14 with 1:05 on the clock.
On third and 16 from the Mustang 20, Kyle Fields was under pressure and threw a high pass to Jacob Justesen. The junior receiver jumped high in the air, made the catch, hustled to the goalline with a final stretch for a 20-yard touchdown.
Down 36-34, Sherman had to make the conversion to possibly send this slugfest to overtime, but a pass from Fields, intended for Treve Martin, fell short.
“There is so many things that could have happened differently on that play, but what happened, happened. There is nothing you can really do to change that,” Fields said. “That is the way it is. That is football, that is how it goes. We just have to learn from it and move on.”
Sherman attempted an onside kick, but the ball rolled out of bounds, inches out of the reach of Justesen, allowing Crane to hold on to the ball and run out the clock for the win.
“What this team showed me most is that we are never out of any game and we will do our best to pull it out,” Fields said. “We have a lot of heart and we showed that tonight. We fell behind and the odds were against us, but these guys showed that they are willing to fight until the very end.”
Crane held a 28-14 lead with 11:56 remaining in the game, but the Huskies added a 61-yard run by Winslow, followed by a one-yard scoring plunge by Isaiah Coles to make it, 28-20.
Fields then completed the conversion pass to Justesen to get the Huskies to within a 28-22 score.
Crane held the ball for nearly five minutes on its next possession and was stopped on a fourth play giving Sherman the ball from its 42 with 6:38 remaining.
Faced with a fourth and 13 from their own 39, the Huskies burned back-to-back timeouts to get the play they needed.
Fields connected with Justesen on a swing pass, and Justesen rumbled 61 yards down the sideline for the touchdown to even the score at 28-apiece.
With a chance to take their first lead of the game, the Huskies could not convert their conversion pass, so Crane had a chance to put the game away.
The Mustangs had a 59-yard run by George Balowski called back due to a facemask penalty, so they faced a second down and 15 from their own 35.
Sherman stacked the box in an attempt to stop Crane, but quarterback Miles Maupin caught the Huskies on a play-action pass play and found an open David Steeves for 65 yards and a touchdown to make it a 34-28 tally.
Balowski converted the two-point try to give the Mustangs an all-important eight-point cushion with 3:30 left.
“Before the game, our coach told us that the 34 blast pass would work and it ended up working at the end when we needed it most,” Maupin said about the late touchdown pass. “It was a tough game. We battled all the way through it against a very good team.”
In the second half, Crane had five possessions and scored twice, but the Huskies rattled off 314 yards, 205 through the air, to get back into contention.
Fields was 8 for 13 for 205 yards and touchdown throws of 65, 15, 61 and 20. He also had one first-half interception.
“I think it just took our line, myself and everyone else just a second to get going,” said senior tight end Max Martin. “It took a half for us to finally figure things out. We were a little rusty and then we got going. We were able to get some plays, got loose and score some points.”
Balowski helped Crane score on its first possession to take a 6-0 lead, capping an 11-play, 50-yard drive, with a four-yard run.
With 48 seconds left in the first quarter, Balowski added a 52-yard scoring run to increase the lead to 12-0.
At the 5:26 mark of the second period, Crane padded its lead to 20-0, as Steeves capped the first-half scoring with a three-yard run and Balowski added the conversion.
In the first half, the Huskies helped extend Crane drives with 15-yard penalties, including two on the final scoring possession.
All told, Sherman had seven personal foul or unsportsmanlike infractions called against them.
Although his team showed pride in coming back, head coach Bill Blevins harkened back to several teaching moments that put his team in an early deficit.
“First, we didn’t come out with the type of intensity we needed in the first half. We certainly did in the second half, but we did not to start this game well. It’s hard to come back from a 20-point hole in the first half,” Blevins said. “The next thing that comes to mind is that we came out with a little too much indiscipline and cost ourselves way too many penalties. We just didn’t play a clean enough game to win a close one.”
For the Huskies, Winslow had 104 yards rushing and added two catches for 13 yards and a score.
Justesen totaled six catches for 149 yards and three scores, Coles rushed seven times for 11 yards and a touchdown, and the combination of Treve and Max Martin hauled in three catches for 44 yards.
“We got some work to do. Our practices need to be high intensity and we need to focus on the little things,” Max Martin said. “We need to pay attention to detail, like we had too many penalties. It will take discipline and attention to detail and then we will be good. But, we still have a way to go.”
Winslow posted 11 tackles and a sack, Justesen and Reese Blake chipped in with 10 tackles each, Treve Martin finished with eight tackles, Coles added 7.5 tackles and Max Martin tallied seven tackles and a team-high two sacks.
Aside from the efforts of Justesen and the rest of the team, Owen Christiansen, Nic Lesh, Kyle Hensley, Zach Fluhr, Ryan Asher, and Makoa Whitaker were able to make solid contributions.
Getting that group on the gridiron against a solid program will help the younger players in terms of their growth.
“When you a play team like Crane, it shows you how you need to play if you want to be a pretty darn good program. They played clean, they played with intensity and they made very few mistakes” Blevins said. “It gives you a gauge on what you have and what you can do. It certainly showed us what we are capable of doing. We do need to fix some things. Obviously, our team committed way too many penalties to compete against one of the better teams in the state.”
Sherman (0-1 overall) makes a trip to Redmond for another non-league game at 1 p.m. Saturday against Triad (1-0).