EVERMAN — Looking at Everman's defense on tape, the Crowley football coaching staff and quarterback Matt Marner thought the Eagles might break some big plays Friday night.
They did, and Marner was the one breaking them.
The junior QB hit the Bulldogs from long distance and running back Larry Cheeks took care of the short stuff as Crowley proved it is a contender this season in the District 8-4A race.
Marner ran 47 and 89 yards -- untouched both times -- on successive Crowley offensive plays and Cheeks ran for three touchdowns (14, 6 and 2 yards) and 75 yards as the Eagles came to the Bulldogs' field and took a 42-28 victory.
"That's the first time we have beaten this team since 1998, gentlemen," Crowley coach Chris James, pointing toward Everman field house, told his team moments after the game ended at Dr. J.E. Marr Stadium. "First time since 1998."
Marner accounted for 387 offensive yards -- 214 rushing (on 11 carries) and 173 passing (on 11 of 16) as Crowley pushed its records to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the district. Everman, usually a big dog in its district, fell to 2-3, 1-1.
Marner's two TD runs in the first quarter -- the second one on the final play of the period -- gave Crowley leads of 7-3 and 14-6. They came on zone-read options, and each completely fooled the right side of the Everman defense.
"We knew their D-line was going to get after us, and they play real fast, so we figured if we could them to bite [on option fakes] a couple of times, we might be able to break some long ones," Marner said.
"They're a very aggressive team and when they see an opportunity, they like to jump on it, so we were able to make the best out of it."
"We a spread option football team, and if you don't play your keys right defensively, that's what happens," James said of Marner's runs. "If one guy doesn't do this job, or one guy doesn't do that job. Somebody's got to take the quarterback and somebody's got to take the running back, and I think what happened in those instances, somebody forgot to take the quarterback."
And while he didn't score, Marner's 56-yard run from the Crowley 24 to the Everman 20 just before the third quarter ended cut the Bulldogs' momentum just after they had cut the Eagles' lead from 28-14 to 28-21.
Asked why didn't score on that run, Marner said, "The safeties were both right there ... and I was getting tight."
"I think he was just tired," his coach said with a laugh.
But it wasn't only Marner's running that hurt Everman. He connected on five passes of at least 18 yards, plus a 14-yard touchdown to tight end Steven Lawson (wearing the lime green shoes) two plays after Marner's 56-yard run. That TD made it 35-21 with 0:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Lawson also had receptions of 28 and 27 yards, the second one wide open in the Everman secondary on a third-and-7 play with 4 1/2 minutes remaining and the Bulldogs, again rallying to 35-28, trying to get the ball back. That put Crowley at the Everman 19 and set up Cheeks' clinching 2-yard TD run with 3:48 remaining.
Crowley's defense, which more than matched Everman's aggressiveness, was dented at times, but had one big series. The Bulldogs had rallied for a 14-14 tie and got the ball back, but Crowley had consecutive tackles for losses -- one a sack -- and set up a short Everman punt from its 10.
In three plays, Crowley scored to go ahead for good. It drove 34 yards as Marner kept for 9, hit Khalil Washington with an 11-yard pass and Cheeks bounced off a tackle to go 16 yards for the TD 5:05 before the half.
The Bulldogs had their share of big plays -- a 43-yard touchdown run on a counter by Chris Stafford and Reggie Kincade's 15-yard scramble for their final score. Kincade gained 124 yards on 15 carries, and Zach Cowan had 80 yards -- mostly inside the tackles -- on 12 carries. But the Everman passing game wasn't as potent as Crowley's.
"Our kids played hard," James said of his Eagles. "That's what they do. Every game we've played this year, our kids have laid it on the line every time."
But this one was special. James pointed out that the series with Everman had been 24-4, Bulldogs.
"This tell us we're on top of the district right now, with two other ballclubs," he added, "and we've got to keep playing. ... Anytime you get a district win, it feels good. Doesn't matter who the opponent is."
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