Turnovers doom Red Devils against No. 2 Cody

Red Devil defender Derek Johnson gets a bead on Cody’s Jackson Schroeder during Evanston’s 61-14 loss to the Broncs Friday. Johnson was thrust into emergencey fullback duty on offense, rushing for 66 yards and a TD. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

The road has been a tough place to play for the Evanston High School football team this season, a trend that continued Friday at Spike Vannoy Field in Cody.

The Red Devils had a rough go against the No. 2 ranked team in 3A, with the Broncs capitalizing on five Evanston turnovers to cruise to a 61-14 win. The loss drops the Red Devils to 1-5 on the season (0-2 in the 3A West), and with games still to play against No. 1 Jackson and No. 3 Powell, the schedule doesn’t get any easier as it winds down.

“We couldn’t capitalize on anything — the ball did not bounce our way,” said EHS head coach Jim Burton. “We had two picks that were right in the hands of receivers and popped out; early on, we’d pitch it to air. We made mistakes, and they capitalized on them — I think we had five turnovers, and Cody scored five touchdowns on those turnovers. You don’t win games doing that, for sure.”

The Broncs found the end zone on their opening drive and didn’t look back, taking a 34-0 lead into the half. Evanston turned the ball over on its first two possessions, leading to Cody scores. A promising drive on the Red Devils’ second possession was cut short when a Jaxin Moore pass to Cade Francom was wrestled out of Francom’s hands by Cody’s Drew Trotter for an interception.

“It’s hard when you finally establish some kind of rhythm, and you get a dagger,” Burton said.

Cody’s Jackson Schroeder picked off Moore at the start of the second quarter and raced 70 yards for a touchdown; down 27-0, the Red Devils fumbled on their next possession, leading to another score. The Broncs went into the half with a commanding 34-0 lead.

Addressing the team at the break, Burton told his players to focus on the half of football yet to be played.

“As cliche as it may sound, we just told the guys, ‘Hey, it’s zero-zero,” Burton said. “We gotta come out, we gotta try to get a score, get a stop, then get another score. Every series has to be independent of what has happened before. You have to be able to let go.”

Evanston’s turnover woes continued in the third quarter — a pass intended for Stetson Wiedrich went off Wiedrich’s hand and into the arms of Cody’s Tanner Blatt, who returned it 50 yards for the score.

Evanston found some momentum in the fourth, with Moore leading the offense down to the Broncs’ 16-yard line. But the promising drive came up short when Cody’s Trey Thomasson stepped in front of a pass intended for Wiedrich and scampered 85 yards for the Broncs’ third pick six of the game.

With just over four minutes to play and down 61-0, it was gut check time for Evanston: Let the clock run out, or play it out to the last. As has been the case all season, the Red Devils chose the latter.

“We got kids that are flying around, making plays,” Burton said. “Our kids didn’t quit — they kept coming, they kept fighting.”

Evanston ruined Cody’s bid for a second straight shutout on their next possession, when Moore found the corner on a keeper and raced 76 yards for the score.

Micah Liechty’s onside kick was recovered by Blake Ross, and the Red Devils were back in business on the 50-yard line. What followed was a steady diet of Evanston defensive lineman and senior captain Derek Johnson, forced into fullback duty against Cody with solid results — his hard-nosed running provided a spark for the Red Devils in the second half.

“Between some injuries and some things going on, we had some need for another fullback,” Burton said. “We kept looking around and asking, ‘Who do we think will run hard?’ And Derek did just that for us.”

Johnson — wearing No. 61 in the backfield — carried six times on the game’s final drive, including a run of 39 yards, scoring the final touchdown of the game on a one-yard plunge. With 14 points on the board in the game’s final minutes, the Red Devils were able to leave Cody with their heads high, knowing they played to the final gun.

Moore led the charge on the ground for Evanston, finishing with 89 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Through the air, the junior completed seven of 13 passes for 43 yards and four interceptions. Defensively, Moore finished with 14 points, including an interception.

Johnson finished the game with 66 yards on seven carries and a touchdown; he was tied for the team lead in defensive points with 22, including 13 tackles (six unassisted) and the Red Devils’ only sack.

“Derek had a really good game,” Burton said.

Jagger Mitchell was able to grind out 63 yards on the ground, despite being the focus of Cody’s defense. He also finished with 22 points defensively. Peyton Cornia caught four passes for 31 yards, while Wiedrich hauled in two for 10 yards.

Ryker Case finished with 10 defensive points, while Francom had eight for the game. Brandon VanGieson and Wade Barker recorded five defensive points apiece.

“Jagger Mitchell had a pretty solid game — it was hard getting him established in the running game, Cody was keying on him a little bit,” Burton said. “Cade Francom had another good game on defense, and Peyton Cornia and Stetson Wiedrich stepped up and were catching the ball well.”

The Red Devils are on the road again Friday, taking on No. 1 Jackson. The Broncs routed Green River 63-17 Friday, running their record to 5-1 (2-0 in 3A West).

“[Against Jackson], it’s going to be execution, and finishing those plays,” Burton said. “As a running back, we have to take care of the ball, and as a receiver, we have to catch the ball. And if something bad happens, you can’t let it go for 80 yards. A guy makes a pick, you have to tackle the guy. The most important thing is to take care of the ball, and do what we do.”

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