Rock on: Craig beats Parker for coveted city bragging rights
JANESVILLE—Janesville Craig turned to its bread and butter when it needed it most on Friday night.
The Cougars’ steady ground game tilled up The Rock.
Running backs D.J. Weberg and Trevon Hall scored fourth-quarter touchdowns less than five minutes apart to help Craig pull away from crosstown rival Janesville Parker. Then the Cougars held on to claim bragging rights and the Monterey Rock with a 20-10 victory at Monterey Stadium.
The victory gave the Cougars a 4-5 record to finish the season. Parker finished 2-7.
“I’m happy for our seniors to finish on a high note,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “You can tell they’re very excited. I’m so proud of how our guys finished.”
Parker took an early lead on Billy Phalin’s 37-yard field goal and Craig responded with quarterback Ben Gabower’s 34-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The 7-3 score stood up until the fourth quarter.
Craig attempted to find some rhythm through its passing game early, but found little success. So it kept the ball on the ground for much of the second half, including a touchdown drive that ended with 10:31 remaining. Weberg took a pitch to the left on fourth-and-goal from the 2 and gave the Cougars a 13-3 cushion.
“We decided we were just going to run power (formations) and run it,” McCormick said. “We were able to get in on the fourth-down conversion. I think we had all running plays on that drive and got it done.”
After Parker was forced to punt, Hall broke off a 28-yard run but fumbled the ball back to the Vikings. They were forced to punt again, and Hall made amends for his blunder.
The senior, who carried the ball nine times for 128 yards, grabbed a toss on a triple-option play and streaked 71 yards down the left sideline for a 20-3 lead.
“It was a close game, and I knew that fumble was a big turning point,” Hall said. “I felt like once I got another opportunity, I just needed to take it into my own hands.”
The Vikings got a 35-yard touchdown pass from Logan Coulter to Jovanni Sanchez and had opportunities late, but couldn’t cash them in.
Coulter completed 11 of 23 passes for 145 yards, by far the Vikings’ best game through the air. But Parker racked up 11 penalties for 140 yards.
“(Coulter) was getting into a little bit of groove and playing well,” Parker coach Eric Skrzypchak said. “He’s gotten more comfortable back there.
“My guys didn’t give up. We kept battling, but just made too many mental mistakes that hurt us.”
The Cougars finished with 277 rushing yards, a fitting end for the second-best rushing team in the Big Eight.
“I knew it was going to be close, and I’m just glad we all got together to fight,” Hall said. “We’ve got the Rock and we’ve got bragging rights, so it feels good.”