WICHITA FALLS, TX – Even if the Crawford coaching staff had decided to use the same strategy that Stratford used to limit Canadian’s scoring to one TD in the first half two weeks ago, it still wouldn’t have worked. The Pirates were held to only 26 yards total offense in the first half with no first downs. Stratford, to their credit, proved that a team must at least be able to make first downs to burn the clock and keep the ball out of the possession of what has to be the fastest paced offense in Texas High School football.
It must have been shock and awe for undefeated Crawford, now 14-1, fielding a defense that hasn’t given up more than 20 points per game all season to look up at a scoreboard that said Wildcats – 42, Pirates – 0 going in at the break. The 47 point deficit left by the final score of 61-14 was the largest point spread of any class of 11-man Texas High School Football Semi-Final this season. Next to that was a 36 point deficit in a 4ADI match. And Crawford’s RB Max Viladevall kept that deficit from being 54 points by scoring on a one yard run (Foss PAT) with only 11 seconds left in the game.
Crawford Head Coach Delbert Kelm admitted to what a number of opposing coaches that prepared for the Wildcats this year have noted, that being the fast-to-line-up-quick-snapping offense led by QB Tanner Schafer (29 for 34, 316 yards, 2 TDs) cannot be imitated in practice. Therefore, many defenses get a true feel for what’s coming at them far too late in the game, not to mention the physical conditioning the Canadian offense displays to maintain the blistering pace; a pace that causes many defenses to be “sucking wind” before the end of the first half. That advantage combined with the ability to give little or no time for the defense to line up and read formations can easily create a snowball effect of scoring on short field situations handed to them by the tough Wildcat defense. Through the playoffs, Canadian has outscored their opponents in the first half by 214 to 8.
Canadian received the opening kickoff and proceeded to drive 75 yards in 10 plays, topped off with a scrambling Schafer hitting WR Sawyer Cook in the back of the end zone from the 14 yard line for the first score of the game with 9:28 left in the first quarter. The kickoff to Crawford was followed by a 3-and-out forced by the Wildcat defense. Taking over on their own 35 yard line, the Wildcats ripped off a 49 yard screen pass form Schafer to WR Ryan Royse (8 for 119 yards) to the Crawford 16 yard line. RB Chance Cook (147 yards on 15 carries, 4 TDs) then ran off tackle for 15 yards down to the 1 yard line. First and goal saw Cook push against several Pirate defenders to break the plane of the goal line for the second score with 7:25 left in the first quarter.
All-State kicker, Benigno Heredia (4-for-5 PATs), having kicked most of his kickoffs out of the end zone, hung the kickoff in a 12 mph wind that was received at the 25 yard line and was returned to the Pirate 40 yard line by LB Koby Smith. The drive was ended by a Wildcat stop on a third and two, another 3-and-out.
After Crawford’s punt rolled out of bounds at the Canadian 14 yard line, the Wildcats went to work moving the ball up to their 45 yard line. On the 5th play of the drive Schafer was sacked by DE Cade Johnson on a 3rd and 6 and was forced to punt.
The next offensive series for the Pirates started out with Canadian LB Cade Throgmorton getting a sack on QB Wyatt Griffith by hustling from a block that had him on his knees to get to Griffith’s ankles for a 5 yard loss. Then on 3rd & 13 Griffith was tripped up as he backed away from the center after the snap, ending another drive with a 3-and-out, the frustration building for the Pirates.
Chance Cook fielded the Pirate punt on the 8 yard line and advanced it to the 24, where the Wildcats started a 7 play, 76 yard drive that included another 21 yard gain on a Ryan Royse screen pass and capped with a 3 yard run by Cook.
As the second quarter ended, so did the next possession by Crawford as a bad exchange between Griffith and RB Noah Bleything yielded a fumble recovery by Canadian LB Throgmorton on the Pirate 19 yard line. Four plays later, RB Chance Cook went into the end zone standing up making the score 28-0, Canadian with 11:32 left in the second quarter.
The second period would play out much like the first, with Canadian scoring on two more drives of 67 and 50 yards, Cook would run in another TD from the 1 yard line and Schafer would throw another TD pass to WR Cameron Copley running a slant route from the Pirate 20 yard line.
The second half began with a renewed effort from the Pirate offense taking their first possession and driving 77 yards on 16 plays for the first Pirate score. QB Griffith hit WR Cade Johnson, making a great play on the ball in double coverage by Chance Cook and Manny Ramsey on a flea-flicker from the Canadian 23, setting up a TD run from the 2 yard line by Noah Bleything with 6:06 left in the third quarter.
With half of the third period taken by Crawford, Canadian answered the opening second half scoring effort by the Pirates in three plays taking only 50 seconds off of the clock. The short kickoff to Cameron Copley returned to the Pirate 48 yard line gave the Wildcats another short field to work with. Schafer hit Royse on an 8 yard pass then handed off to Cook on 2nd and 2 for a 36 yard romp to the 4 yard line. Schafer, on first and goal, unable to find an open receiver scrambled to the pylon for the score.
Disaster struck the Pirate offense once again when Griffith launched a pass downfield 30 yards to RB Jeff Ward, however, the slightly under-thrown ball was picked off by DB Cameron Copley. Canadian would convert the turnover to points 12 plays later with Schafer executing the quarterback bootleg to perfection from the Crawford 4 yard line for the TD with 11:20 left in the game.
Canadian would convert yet another fumble by Crawford caused by a pitch-out by Griffith to Jeff Ward that Ward couldn’t control. Canadian RB Bailey Urschel would push in the final Wildcat score from the 1 yard line (Douthitt PAT no good) giving the Wildcats a 61-7 lead with 4:25 left in the game.
Crawford’s RB Max Viladevall would score on a one yard run (Foss PAT) with only 11 seconds left in the game, concluding the contest with a final score of 61-14.
This Semi-Final win by Canadian marked the 30th consecutive win by the Wildcats, the longest current win streak in Texas High School football. It is also the career win status for QB Tanner Schafer as a starting QB for Canadian. Schafer will have the opportunity to finish the season with 4,000 yards passing in the Championship game Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in Houston’s NRG Stadium, where the Wildcats will face the Refugio Bobcats for the Texas UIL Class 2ADI State Championship. RB Chance Cook is less than 10 yards away from rushing for 2,000 yards this season and should easily achieve that goal on Thursday morning.
The Wildcats have worked their way through the 2015 season with the same methodical one-game-at-a-time philosophy as they did in the 2014 season and the results have been eye-opening to anyone that follows Texas High School Football. Although it appears that the results have matched the hype, Canadian will not consider their season goal achieved until they successfully defend the State Championship on Thursday. It is expected, and rightfully so, that the Refugio Bobcats will be the toughest opponent Canadian will face this season, creating the perfect atmosphere for a Championship game. As last year, all of the State Championship games will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest and scheduled to be rerun in the weeks to come. Check your local cable or satellite provider for the correct channel assigned to FSSW.
By Jerry Brunson, Class 2A and Canadian Wildcat Correspondent
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