Rock solid: Craig defense stands firm to hold off Parker
JANESVILLE--Janesville Craig's defense gave up momentum early in the second half Friday night.
But the group wasn't about to release its grip on the Monterey Rock trophy.
The Cougars gave up a touchdown that allowed crosstown rival Janesville Parker back within a touchdown. The Vikings then began their next three possessions no farther than 22 yards away from a return trip to the end zone.
Craig's defense held strong all three times, forcing two turnovers on downs and recovering a fumble. The Cougars allowed just 123 yards of total offense in a 22-8 Big Eight Conference victory at Monterey Stadium.
"We've definitely leaned on our defense all year," Craig coach Adam Bunderson said. "Our offense has started doing some really good things, and I thought we moved the ball really well, if we wouldn't have turned it over.
"But our defense, especially our run defense, has been outstanding. ... They're definitely the backbone of our team right now."
Craig improved to 2-3 and reclaimed The Rock for the fifth time in six years after losing last season. Parker fell to 1-4.
"It feels amazing, just fantastic," said Craig senior linebacker Seth Glissendorf, who had six tackles, including one for loss, and recovered a fumble. "I know it's Parker, but just any victory would have been nice. I'm glad we got it."
The Cougars built a 15-0 halftime lead behind 154 first-half rushing yards, two fumble recoveries by senior Kyle Krueger, touchdowns on the ground from Devin Alderson and Ben Coulter and a 21-yard field goal by Michael Feirn. Craig outgained Parker 178-40 before halftime.
Yet Parker threatened to take back all the momentum out of the break. Sam Garvoille returned the opening kickoff into Craig territory, and six plays later, senior quarterback Kyle Birkett--who didn't start due to injury but rotated with classmate Jordan Bailey throughout the night--scampered 27 yards up the middle on fourth-and-six for a touchdown.
Birkett's pass to Tremar Curry cut the Vikings' deficit to 15-8 less than five minutes into the half.
"Kyle didn't practice all week after getting hit hard against Sun Prairie. He practiced for the first time on Thursday," Parker coach Clayton Kreger said. "They're both leaders, both can run our offense. I have confidence in both of them."
The Vikings put their offense in prime position to even the score throughout the rest of the third quarter.
They blocked a punt to end Craig's first second-half possession, taking over at the 20-yard line. Four players later, though, Parker turned the ball over on downs when the Cougars stuffed a run on fourth-and-two.
The Cougars fumbled on each of their next two possessions.
Parker took over from the Craig 22 on the first, but turned the ball over on downs again after four plays.
"It's the mistakes that kill us," said Kreger, whose team coughed the ball up three times and was whistled for nine penalties. "I don't know if it's because we're tired or our mind goes in a different direction. ... It's attention to detail. Everything you do, you've got to be precise."
Parker's third quality chance to score came off a Craig fumble that gave the Vikings the ball at the 18. But they promptly fumbled the ball right back on a botched exchange that was covered up by junior Tegan Christiansen.
"I kind of felt like the touchdown was my fault, because I was supposed to fill there," Glissendorf said. "After that, I was just trying to get all the guys hyped up so we could stop them. It was three times straight inside the 30-yard line.
"But everyone just did their job and we stopped them."
The Cougars got an insurance touchdown less than three minutes into the fourth quarter thanks to the biggest play of the night. Coulter hit Talique Clayton on a 71-yard pass up the right seam, setting up Alderson's second touchdown from three yards out. Alderson ran 15 times for 83 yards..
Craig, which overcame three fumbles lost and 12 penalties of its own, held firm from there to preserve the victory.
"When you play Parker, it's kind of one of those things that anything can happen, and every time I felt like we were getting momentum, they made a big play," Bunderson said. "Playing Middleton and Sun Prairie back-to-back, guys were getting a little frustrated. It's good to come back out and get a win."
Craig will attempt to get back to .500 next Friday at Beloit Memorial. Parker hosts Middleton.
CRAIG 22, PARKER 8
Janesville Parker 0 0 8 0--8
Janesville Craig 6 9 0 7--22
Scoring: C--Ben Coulter 9 run (kick failed). C--Michael Feirn 21 field goal. C--Devin Alderson 8 run (pass failed). P--Kyle Birkett 27 run (Tremar Curry pass from Birkett). C--Alderson 3 run (Feirn kick).
Statistics: First downs--Parker 8, Craig 19. Rushing--Parker 33-90, Craig 49-236. Passing yards--Parker 33, Craig 91. Passes--Parker 16-5-0, Craig 11-5-0. Fumbles--Parker 3-3, Craig 4-3. Penalties--Parker 9-58, Craig 12-89.