Sluggish Senators escape with win

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 12, 2004

For most of the night, Morgan Academy’s offense was far from perfect.

The Senators turned the ball over six times, allowed Glenwood too much penetration and couldn’t seem to put anything together.

Still, there was one play when everything clicked for the Senators’ offense. That play resulted in a 50-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jeremy Smith and a 7-6 Morgan win.

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“You’re pleased with any win. I learned that a long time ago,” Morgan coach Robert Gartman said. “But it was one of the two ugliest I ever saw.”

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Facing a bigger Gators’ squad, the Morgan defense made up for the offensive miscues and held Glenwood’s power attack in check for most of the night.

“I’m really proud of our kids. They hung in there,” Gartman said. “A lot of people with less character than these kids would have just quit when things went against them. I told them if the hung in there in the fourth quarter, we’d find a way to win. That’s what they’ve done the last three years really.”

Four fumbles and a pair of interceptions plagued Morgan and allowed the Gators to hang around all night.

The game turned on a classic bit of coaching in the third quarter.

Like a boxer setting up his opponent with the jab, Gartman sent McAteer straight up the middle on a dive. On the next play, Smith faked the dive handoff to McAteer and sprinted left on an option.

“We drew it up at halftime, and came out and it worked. It was based on what they were doing on defense,” Gartman said. “That and about four or five pass plays, that was about all we got on offense.”

Smith found a seam, turned up the field and got to the sideline.

He raced 50 yards to the end zone, then tacked on the extra point.

The defense made the seven stand up, though Glenwood fought back and made things interesting.

The Morgan defense forced a punt, but the Senators fumbled it back. Starting at the Morgan 42, the Gators used their pounding running back duo of John Davis and big Vayeton Matthews to march down the field. Davis punched the ball in from six yards out with less than 11 minutes left in the game.

Trailing by one, Glenwood missed the extra point and left Morgan ahead by one, 7-6.

Morgan’s offense failed to put the game away, but the Gators could not dent the Senators’ defense, either.

Led by Andrew Slagel, Rhett Rhyne, Blake South, Ben Calloway and Brian Gomes, the Morgan defense was outstanding for most of the night against a bigger Gators squad.

On offense, Josh McAteer led the Morgan attack with 88 yards on 27 carries. It was a workhorse night for the junior back who had to work for nearly every yard he got.

Smith finished with 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He was 4-of-9 for 58 yards and two interceptions through the air.

Smith did complete a pair of passes late in the game to convert for key first downs.

Eric Pilcher had two catches for 22 yards, including a sliding grab on a slant pattern for a fourth-quarter first down.

Alston Alsbrook also had two catches for 36 yards.

Buster, Calloway and South also carried the rock for Morgan.

For the Gators, Davis had 84 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Quarterback Brett Worthington completed only 2-of-10 passes for 13 yards.

McAteer also intercepted a Worthingon pass.

With the win, Morgan improves to 2-1 on the season as it prepares for the big showdown next week on the road at Faith Academy.

Former Morgan headman Robbie James coaches Faith.

The two teams squared off last season for the AISA championship which Morgan won on a late Smith field goal.

“We’ll start getting ready for it as soon as I get home,” Gartman said.