The only way to beat explosive La Crosse Central is to outscore it.
It certainly helps when you have a running back like Loyal Crawford.
The Wisconsin Badger recruit ran for an unofficial 335 yards and five touchdowns, setting a school rushing record, as Eau Claire Memorial did exactly that Thursday night in rolling to a 62-44 win.
"He runs so hard and is so determined, he's just a special athlete," said Memorial Coach Mike Sinz.
The Old Abes came from behind to take a 27-22 halftime lead, and then Crawford took over in the second half, clinching the win with a 76-yard jaunt up the middle of the field in the fourth period that gave Memorial a 20-point lead.
But it was more than Crawford. The Old Abe defense came up with key stops against the dangerous Johnny Davis, a University of Wisconsin men's basketball recruit, who passed for 333 yards and four scores and ran for three more.
But Memorial had the answer, rolling up an unofficial 605 yards of offense, 443 on the ground and 162 on the air arm of quarterback Bryson Johnson, who also ran for a touchdown.
The Abes also got a 64-yard scrimmage score from Ethan Van Grunsven and a sensational 77-yard kickoff return from Calvin Tanner.
"It just shows you what a year can do in the weight room and the improvement of the team overall," said Sinz, who referred to last year's 44-12 loss at Central. "I'm just happy for the kids for the investment they made in the off-season."
The win was the second of the season for the Abes, who opened with a 47-22 win at La Crosse Logan last week when Central was dumping Eau Claire North 60-21.
In the offensive duel, Central piled up 567 yards but it was not enough.
Central gave indication of what might be coming when Johnny Davis hit brother Jordan Davis on a 49-yard pass less than two minutes into the game.
But Johnson ran over from the 4 and passed to Duncan McKinley for the 2-point conversion for an 8-8 tie. It was just the beginning. Tyler Kent's 25-yard field goal gave the Abes the lead heading into the second period.
The teams exchanged scores in the second. Johnny Davis ran for two scores but the Abes matched that on the long runs by Tanner and Van Grunsven for 27-22 halftime lead.
In the third period, Crawford got off on his touchdown parade, scoring on three short yardage runs to offset a 54-yard Davis connection on a 49-yard play that made it 49-28 through three quarters.
Central cut the lead to 49-36 and was still in contention early in the fourth period. And after stopping Memorial at the 16, drove to the Memorial 12 only to see the Abe defense rise up to stop Davis on a fourth down play.
Two plays later, Crawford took a handoff at the Abe 24 and burst through the middle and easily outran the Central defense for the clincher. He added a touchdown on a 14-yard run in the final minute to cap his big day.
Crawford carried 35 times for his 335 yards. Van Grunsven finished with 66 yards in five trips and Jack Piper added 29 on sweeps. Piper also caught four passes for 61 yards while Duncan McKinley caught three for 41.
The Abes got a fine defensive game from Tanner, who had the tough assignment of going against Jordan Davis in the secondary. The 6-5 Davis still managed to catch 14 balls for 262 yards.
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