ENTERPRISE — Gideon Gray did a little bit of everything for the Enterprise Outlaws in their season opener Friday, Sept. 3.
It wasn’t enough for them to come away with a win, though they gave traditional eight-man power Crane all it could handle.
Gray rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown, had a touchdown reception, and recovered a fumble on defense, but the Outlaws fell short as the Mustangs escaped Enterprise with a 16-14 win in a defensive battle.
“Crane is always tough,” head coach Rusty Eschler said. “It was good for us to get out there and play somebody like that right off the bat.”
A game about as close as one could be statistically, coincidentally enough, was ultimately decided by the fact the Mustangs converted on both their two-point conversions while Enterprise missed on one early in the game. The yardages were nearly identical — Enterprise had 209, Crane had 204. Both teams lost a fumble — four plays apart in the third quarter, in fact. Enterprise had the edge on the ground, 149 yards to 123, while Crane held an edge in passing yards, 81-60.
Crane held an 8-6 lead at the half, and was up by the same score after three quarters before Enterprise pulled ahead. Gray took a counter handoff, broke through a hole on the right side and scampered 26 yards to cap a short five-play drive that, following a two-point conversion run by quarterback Jackson Decker, put the Outlaws ahead 14-8 with 10:42 remaining.
“Gideon’s a really good athlete. The only thing I ever critique him on is he runs a little too much like Eric Dickerson, straight up,” Eschler said. “I worry about his health a little bit. Other than that, Gideon is a (heck) of a ball player. Proud to have him on the football team. And he is an even better leader. Him and Jackson Decker are our only two seniors, and they have been outstanding leaders.”
Crane responded with the eventual game-winner on the next possession. On fourth and five near midfield, quarterback Mitch Clark broke away down the left side for a 46-yard touchdown, and then threw a successful conversion pass to Jake Doman for the two-point lead.
“Just a few mental errors and mistakes on defense,” Eschler said. “We correct those in practice and the defense has been solid for us the last two weeks in practice. We just made some mental errors. Get those corrected and we should be even better.”
Enterprise’s ensuing drive was stalled, but the Outlaws forced a stop to get the ball back with 3:30 remaining. The Outlaws drove to the 31 of Crane, with Gray doing most of the damage on the ground, but Jared Zander sacked backup quarterback Tyler Knapp — who filled in for an injured Decker on the final two drives — on fourth down to get the ball back, and Crane was able to run out the clock.
Enterprise scored on its first possession of the game — and the season — to take an early lead. The Outlaws recovered an onside kick to open the game, maneuvered their way downfield, and didn’t let a holding penalty get in the way of the endzone. They were backed up due to the penalty early in the series and eventually faced fourth-and-16, but Decker found an open Gray who went 25 yards for the score and an early 6-0 lead just 4:45 into the game.
“I see our boys’ potentials. I think we can get there too, we just gotta work hard and not let anything stop us,” Gray said.
Crane got on the board early in the second quarter, with the key play on the drive a Taylor Krueger 24-yard run on a double-handoff to get the Mustangs to the eight-yard line. Clark dove in from a yard out three plays later and threw a conversion pass for the 8-6 lead with 9:16 left in the second. It was the only score until Gray’s run in the fourth.
Enterprise seemed to catch a break in the third when Gray recovered a Kelton Dunten fumble at the Crane 45. Gray, though, fumbled on the next possession to give the ball back to the Mustangs.
The senior didn’t let the error faze him, and accounted for all but one of Enterprise’s 35 yards on a short drive on its next possession, including the score for the lead in the fourth.
“I knew if I got down that my team would get down so I gotta keep my head up,” he said of bouncing back from the fumble.
Gray was the main force on offense, not only rushing for 148 yards but adding 40 yards receiving. The rest of the team had 21 total yards rushing and receiving. Decker was 3-for-6 passing for 60 yards.
“On offense I gotta give most of the credit to my blockers,” Gray said. “I just follow them. They make the holes, make it happen. I just run the ball. It’s mostly all the credit to them.”
Clark passed for 81 yards passing and 53 rushing to lead Crane’s offense.
Enterprise (0-1 overall) visits Pilot Rock Thursday.