Red Devils fall to Cody in home finale

Red Devil quarterback Cohen Morrow fires a pass to receiver Brooks Searle during Friday’s 48-13 loss to Cody at Kay Fackrell Stadium. It was a bittersweet end to Senior Night for the Red Devils, who play Green River Thursday for a berth in the 3A State Playoffs. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Turnovers, penalties prove costly in 48-13 loss

A game that started with great promise became a home finale the Evanston High School football team would just as soon forget, falling to Cody 48-13.

The loss cast a shadow on Senior Night festivities for the Red Devils (3-5, 1-3 in 3A West), and created a must-win situation for Thursday’s regular-season finale against Green River. If Evanston can secure the win against their I-80 rivals, it will mean a return to the 3A State Playoffs for the first time since 2018.

As for Friday’s contest against the Broncs (7-1, 3-1 in 3A West), it was a game of two halves.

“The first half, I thought we competed really well,” said EHS head coach Steve Moore, “The third quarter, the wheels kind of came off, a little bit. We had some costly turnovers, and some things that set us back a little bit. But the kids didn’t quit — they played hard, all four quarters, which is obviously good to see. Some things just didn’t go our way there in the second half, and it just snowballed from there.”

The Red Devils’ defense wanted to make a statement early against the No. 3 team in 3A, and did so on the Broncs’ opening drive. On the second play from scrimmage, Evanston defensive back Michael Kopp stepped in front of a Maddax Ball pass in the flat for his first interception of the season, giving the Red Devils the ball on the Cody 35-yard line.

Cody’s defense kept the Red Devils out of the end zone, but Evanston was able to get on the scoreboard first, courtesy of a 38-yard field goal by Jordan Mendez that gave the home team a 3-0 lead.

Cody answered on their next possession, a drive that culminated with a 30-yard touchdown run by Chase Hatch. With the extra point, the Broncs led 7-3, with just over seven minutes to play in the first quarter.

The Red Devils’ defense tightened the screws after Cody’s scoring drive, adapting to the Broncs’ no-huddle offense, and coming up with big stops.

“Our defense was getting in their pre-snap alignments correctly, flying around, making plays, being aggressive,” Moore said. “That first half, I felt like we played pretty good defense, for sure.”

With time winding down in the first half, the Red Devils started a drive on their own 20, and began methodically moving the ball down the field. Runs by Brady Roberts, and a couple of nice throws from Cohen Morrow to Drew Barker and Kai Barker had Evanston down to the Cody 35-yard line. After a couple of incomplete passes, Morrow targeted Mendez down the left sideline, who got tangled up with a Cody defender well before the ball arrived. The pass interference penalty gave the Red Devils the ball 1st-and-10 on the Cody 24-yard line. The drive stalled, and Evanston settled for another Mendez field goal — this time from 37 yards — and cut the lead to 7-6 with under two minutes to play in the half.

“Offensively in the first half, I thought we were pretty well-balanced,” Moore said. “We were throwing and running with some success. It was good to see Jordan Mendez get the two field goals, but against teams like Cody, you definitely need touchdowns. We need to have that nose for the end zone — when we get that close, we need to get it in.”

In what would turn out to be an unfortunate example of foreshadowing, Cody appeared to fumble the ensuing kickoff, giving the Red Devils the ball back deep in Cody territory. The officials called the runner down, however, the first of a number of calls that could be deemed questionable and would haunt the home team the rest of the game.

Given new life, the Broncs took full advantage, using their quick-strike offense to put another touchdown on the board — a 21-yard touchdown pass from Maddax Ball to Jacob Ball — and push their lead to 14-6. An Evanston turnover gave Cody the ball back once more with under a minute left, though a deep pass by ball into Evanston territory was picked off by Drew Barker to end the half with the teams still separated by one score, 14-6.

“Halftime, we felt like we were in a good spot,” Moore said. “We felt like we had some adjustments we could capitalize on, and the kids were excited. It was a one-possession football game — we were excited for where we were at.”

The Red Devils had the ball to open the second half, and promptly began to move the ball, with a pair of runs by Roberts and a keeper by Morrow picking up a first down near midfield. But on first down from their own 40, another nice run by Roberts turned sour when the normally sure-handed back lost the handle, giving the Broncs the ball at midfield. The turnover seemed to change the momentum of the game, as Cody scored a few plays later, making the score 21-6 with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter.

“We felt like we could run on them a little bit — we had some good adjustments,” Moore said. “The turnover was just a bad deal.”

On Evanston’s next possession, Morrow was looking for Kai Barker on a sideline out, when Cody’s Dillon Brost jumped the route, picking off the pass and giving the Broncs the ball at the Evanston 38-yard line. Cody turned the miscue into points yet again, pushing their lead to 27-6 on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ball to Luke Moulton.

“You just tell the kids to keep playing,” Moore said. “Keep working on what we do, and try to always get better. There’s no quit in our kids — I never have to worry about that. They’re going to play four quarters, and more, if they need to. You just don’t like to see the wheels come off the way they did, because it’s hard to regroup when things aren’t going your way all the time.”

The Broncs scored once more in the third quarter to make it 34-6, then once as the fourth quarter began, pushing their lead to 41-6. The Red Devils put together a scoring drive on their first possession of the fourth quarter, beginning with a nice kickoff return by Gabe Hutchinson to midfield. Bruising runs of eight, five and 19 yards by Roberts had Evanston at the 14-yard line, setting the stage for a 14-yard touchdown pass from Morrow to Kai Barker. Mendez hit the point after, and the score was 41-13.

Cody scored once more on a head-scratcher of a play, a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Luke Moulton with two seconds to play in regulation. The Red Devils had driven down to the Broncs’ 1-yard line, and on 4th-and-goal, Roberts appeared to cross the plane for the score. The officials saw it differently, Moulton scooped and scored and Cody returned home with a 48-13 win.

The Red Devils finished the game with 311 yards of offense. Roberts was the workhorse on the ground, grinding out 114 yards on 26 carries; Hutchinson had 13 yards on six carries. Under center, Morrow completed 19 passes for 192 yards, including a touchdown and two picks. Kai Barker and Drew Barker each hauled in eight passes; 88 yards and a score for Kai, and 79 yards for Drew. Roberts had two catches for eight yards, while Brooks Searle caught one ball for nine yards.

Defensively, Drew Barker led the charge with 15 points (5 solo tackles, 1 interception), followed by 12 points from Tarrin Haws (8 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack) and 11 from Morrow (8 tackles, 3 solo). Braunson Sims had nine points (5 tackles, 4 solo), Roberts finished with 8.5 points (5 tackles, 3 solo, .5 tackles for loss) and Zayn Leland tallied seven points (4 tackles, 3 solo).

The Red Devils will close out the regular season Thursday against Green River (1-7, 0-4 in 3A West), in a game that has all manner of playoff implications. It’s a short week for coaches and players, with fall break Monday and Tuesday, and the game moved up a day.

“We gave the kids Monday off for Fall break, and then we practiced Tuesday night,” Moore said. “Wednesday, we have a freshman game, then a JV game against Green River here, and Thursday we go there for the Varsity game. It’s a really short week — Tuesday will have to be the practice where we really get after it, that will really be our only prep day for Green River.”

Moore said records don’t matter when it comes to playing Green River, and after the Red Devils knocked their I-80 rivals out of playoff contention last season, he’s sure the Wolves will be looking for a little payback.

“So now, it’s ‘Win, and We’re In’,” Moore said. “That’s how we’re looking at it. Playoffs start for us this week. And at this point, you can’t look at records — they have athletes, and us against Green River is always a battle, every year. And the script is flipped from last year — they came here needing a win to get in the playoffs, and we were out of the playoffs. We beat them, and kept them out of the postseason. They’d like nothing better than to return the favor, I’m sure. We just need to be prepared, and go play our game. They’ll be coached up, so it will be a battle.”