CROSBY -- Craig Johnson is a coach of a football team in dire need of confidence.
After watching 46 minutes of his Crosby-Ironton Rangers fumble away three possessions, commit six penalties, miss tackles, drop passes and blow two good scoring opportunities, Johnson finally had enough.
He was done yelling at his players at John Davies Field in Crosby. He was done trying to fire up his team, who fell behind the Hermantown Hawks 27-0 in Sea Range Conference action Friday.
He was done.
So with two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Rangers on their own 27 yard line, Johnson called a simple run play.
Brandon Laffin carried the ball for eight yards. It was the fifth longest run for the Rangers and the second longest for Laffin. The junior averaged 110 yards a game, but was held to five carries for 22 yards Friday because of Hermantown's smothering defense.
"That was the best defensive effort Hermantown has ever put up against us," said Johnson. "They caught us off guard. They showed a 53 defense the first two games. We watched both those games, thought we were set up and here they came out in a six man front and took away our trapping game.
"With eight guys piled up in the box, if we couldn't get our short passing game going, we were hurt."
Laffin's run was followed by a 12-yard run by junior quarterback Wayne Ward. Junior Ryan Taggart ran the ball next and scampered for eight more. The Ranger sideline started coming alive.
After three more runs, C-I was faced with fourth down and three yards on Hermantown's 46.
C-I tried and failed on a fourth down conversion earlier in the game. Johnson simply called another run. Ward covered seven yards and gained first down.
Feeling the momentum grow, Johnson called another run. Taggart darted 22 yards for another first down at the Hawks' 17 with less than a minute left.
The last time the Rangers were this close to the end zone two fumbles squandered scoring opportunities.
"One of our points of emphasis for the week was our red zone offense was so poor," said Johnson. "We've scored on four out of eight possessions inside the 20 (yard line) against Aitkin and Greenway and we had to improve that. So here we make some plays and get inside the 10 and then fumble the thing away. I think it was very demoralizing.
"We get the ball on the next possession. Get it close again and again fumble it away. I don't think we ever recovered from that."
Possibly fearing another fumble, this time Johnson went to the pass.
Ward found junior tight end Matt Edmundson for a 12-yard gain and another first down. With four seconds left, Johnson called another pass play. This time Ward found Tom Kirzeder for a seven yard touchdown and what Johnson hopes is something of a confidence boost.
"We're trying to get something from scoring that final touchdown," Johnson said. "Kirzeder ran a good route. Ward threw a good ball. We got some good protection. A positive thing happened. I felt like we needed to go for that touchdown to have something to grab onto."
Hermantown 0 14 13 0 -- 27
Crosby-Ironton 0 0 0 8 -- 8
H-Mike Sumbs 6 run ( Scott Eisenach run) 9:16
H-Darren Carlson 6 run (kick failed) 1:45
H-Sumbs 62 run (Travis Taran kick) 11:15
H-Nikki Holt 7 run (kick failed) 2:52
CI-Tom Kirzeder 7 pass from Wayne Ward (Ward run) :00
Rushes-yards -- H 57-378; CI 23-109
Pass comp-att-int-yards -- H 3-6-2-39; CI 8-21-0-106
Total offense -- H 63-417; CI 44-215
Rushing -- CI Nick Perpich 5-33, Wayne Ward 9-29, Ryan Taggart 6-25, Brandon Laffin 5-22; H Scott Eisenach 18-128, Mike Sumbs 8-107
Passing -- CI Ward 8-21-106; H Darren Carlson 2-4-28
Receiving -- CI Tyler Hendrickson 3-58, Tom Kirzeder 2-22, Perpich 2-14, Matt Edmundson 1-12; H Sumbs 1-18
Conference -- CI 0-2, H 2-0. Overall -- CI 1-2, H 2-1. Next game -- Crosby-Ironton hosts Virginia.
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