SCIOTOVILLE — In just two games Justin Crager totaled an amazing 652 yards helping the East Tartans get off to a 2-0 start. On Friday night, Crager might have had his best performance as a Tartan, helping East (3-0) beat the visiting Bobcats of Green (2-1), 40-20.
Crager totaled 384 rushing yards on 25 carries and scored four touchdowns in the game helping him become the fastest player in East High School history to go over the 1,000-yard milestone.
“It means a lot to me but I think it means more to the team,” senior running back Justin Crager said. “Our line deserves it more than I do, our line has been dominant, and I wouldn’t trade any of them.”
From the first play of scrimmage Crager set the tone, breaking through a huge hole created by the offensive line scoring from 67-yards and gave the Tartans an early 7-0 lead.
“Offensively we came out and did what we wanted to do right off the bat,” East Coach Todd Gilliland said.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Green’s Kyle Frazier answered Crager with an 85-yard kickoff return tying the ball game at 7-7 with not even a minute played.
“I give Green credit for coming right back, we had a breakdown on special teams and they made us pay for it,” Gilliland said.
On the following drive for East it was Crager again just two plays into the drive breaking free, this time from 55-yards for the touchdown. The score gave the Tartans a quick 14-7 lead with 10:58 remaining in the first quarter.
The two teams were fighting for early momentum as they combined for 21 points on only three plays from scrimmage in the first 1:02 of the ball game.
The Bobcats continued to scrap against East. It was Frazier again, who finished with 280 all-purpose yards, that broke free from the East defense. This time running for an 85-yard touchdown, tying the game once again at 14-14 with 10:06 left in the half.
“My guys just responded, they came out and said we better play and they did real well,” Green Coach Dan McDavid said.
After both teams exchanged possessions throughout the quarter, Green had their chance to take the lead for the first time in the ball game late in the second quarter. First-and-goal on the 8-yard line, the Bobcats could not capitalize.
“It’s a learning experience and a learning curve and my young guys learned a lot tonight,” McDavid said.
East came up with what ended up being the biggest defensive series of the game. Both teams entered halftime tied at 14-14.
“First half we came out sloppy and we came out flat and coach got on us and we responded,” Crager said.
Early in the second half, East running back, Tyler Bradford, who finished with 154 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown, bullied his way into what seemed to be a 2-yard touchdown run, only to see the ball fall on the ground.
Tartans offensive lineman, Sam Elliott fell on top of the ball to give East a 20-14 lead with 6:59 remaining in the half.
East defense stood tall forcing back-to-back three-and-outs for Green and let Crager take over.
“I was very pleased with the way the defense played in the second half, they were hurting us with the counter and we made the adjustment and played with more intensively,” Gilliland said.
On a 10-play 62-yard drive, Crager had five carries for 65 yards and capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:11 left in the third quarter, giving the Tartans a 26-14 lead.
After another stifling defensive series, Bradford who had a strong game playing with Crager, broke free from the first play of scrimmage. The 44-yard touchdown marked the fifth play in the ball game that was at least over 40 yards for a score.
“It was more of that effort out of our kids that we needed to get out of them and they took it upon themselves,” Gilliland said.
The touchdown gave East a commanding 33-14 lead with 8:04 remaining. However, all eyes were on Crager as fans wanted to see Crager reach the 1,000 yard mark.
Entering the fourth quarter Crager only needed 47 more yards, already totaling 300 yards and three touchdowns Crager knew he had a strong offensive line to do it.
On what seemed to be the last drive for Crager he did not let fans down. In what seemed to be a broken play, Crager switched directions and found a wide-open left side scoring on a 68-yard touchdown giving him a grand total of 1,036 yards on the season.
“He is a special player, the speed he has and the strength he is going to be tough to stop,” Gilliland said.
The score also gave the Tartans a 40-14 lead with 5:10 left in the game.
However, down 26 points, the Bobcats still fought. Frazier who also added 125 yards on seven carries with two touchdowns, added a 33-yard touchdown run with 2:43 left cutting the lead to 40-20 but it was to late at East won the game.
“I am proud of this team and I don’t care what the score was we hung in there and showed me their guts,” McDavid said.
After three games Crager is averaging 345.33 yards per game and if he keeps up the pace he will be just 19 yards behind the state record holder, Ross Franklin of Johnstown-Monroe who had 3,472 last season.
East will travel to Raceland, Ky. next week as the official Justin Crager watch is on.
Green 7 7 0 6 20
East 14 0 12 14 40
11:38 E- Crager 67 run (Seibert kick) 7-0
11:23 G- Frazier 85 kickoff return (Mallet kick) 7-7
10:58 E- Crager 55 run (Seibert kick) 14-7
10:06 G- Frazier 85 run (Mallet kick) 14-14
6:59 E- Elliott 2 run fumble recovery in end zone (Kick fail) 20-14
1:11 E- Crager 1 run (Run fail) 26-14
5:10 E- Crager 68 run (Seibert kick) 40-14
2:43 G- Frazier 33 run (Kick fail) 40-20
First Downs 6 12
Total Net Yards 354 578
Rush-yards 32-258 43-543
Passing 11 12
Comp-Att-Int 1-4-0 2-5-1
Punts 6-35.7 2-44.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties 4-40 10-65