Morgan looking for Faith

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 31, 2004

They may no longer be in the same AISA classification, but the inter-city rivalry still lives between the Morgan Academy Senators and Meadowview Christian School Trojans.

The Senators scored 19 second-half points Friday night and went on to a 33-6 victory over the Trojans.

The Senators (8-1) won their eighth straight game and set the stage for next week’s game at unbeaten Faith Academy in a rematch of last year’s Class 3A state championship.

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“They played us a lot tougher tonight than I expected,” Morgan Academy coach Robert Gartman said of the Trojans. “In all honesty, we practiced all week for Faith Academy. I’m not going to lie about it.”

The Trojans dropped to 4-5 on the season, but would still make the playoffs with a victory next week over visiting Coosa Valley.

“One of our big concerns tonight,” MCS coach Rick Jackson said, “was to come out of this game healthy so we could be ready for next week.

“Our players have been dropping like flies,” Jackson added. “With only 18 players, we can’t afford to get anyone else hurt.”

The Trojans may have to play again next week without starting offensive tackle/defensive lineman Cody Smitherman. The senior currently is hospitalized with a herniated disk in his back, Jackson said. The MCS coach added that Smitherman’s availability should be known later this week.

The Trojans came out of Friday night’s game in good physical shape, but were still pushed around by the bigger, more physical Senators, who controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the evening. Morgan Academy had plenty of success running the football against Meadowview, especially through the middle of the Trojans’ defense. On the Senators’ opening drive, Josh McAteer found an opening for a 13-yard dash to the MCS 24-yard line.

But the drive was halted when quarterback Jeremy Smith’s pass went through a receiver’s hands and fell into the hands of Meadowview outside linebacker Austin Dennis. However, the Trojans were unable to keep the drive going and were forced to punt.

The Senators followed with an 8-play, 62-yard drive culminated by Rhett Rhyne’s 2-yard run up the middle to give Morgan a 6-0 lead with 1:35 left in the opening period. The extra-point try failed.

Rhyne set up his own score with a 13-yard scamper up the middle to the Meadowview Christian 11-yard line. McAteer followed with a 9-yard run to the 2.

After the Meadowview offense was held to three-and-out and forced to punt, the Senators had a chance to pad their lead. Morgan appeared on the verge of scoring again when it reached the MCS 9-yard line.

The drive, however, came to screeching halt on the heels of two penalties and an outstanding defensive play by the Meadowview defensive line that pushed the Senators back to the Trojans’ 27. A 44-yard field goal try was wide left.

The Morgan defense, however, quickly got the ball back when McAteer intercepted a pass at the MCS 42 and returned it 16 yards to the 26.

Seven plays later, Rhyne scored his second touchdown on a 3-yard run off left tackle. Smith found McAteer on the two-point pass to make it 14-0 with 46.2 seconds left in the first half.

Meadowview Christian got a break when Morgan Academy fumbled the kickoff to start the third quarter. But the Senators’ defense tightened as Clayton Cogle stopped Trojans’ running back Dustin Lee for a yard loss on fourth down.

The Morgan offense went to work, attacking a tired MCS defense. The Senators assembled a long 9-play, 78-yard drive culminated when Smith tossed to McAteer, who went around the right end en route to a 26-yard scoring run that put Morgan ahead 20-0.

Five minutes later, Morgan padded its lead with a 5-play 52-yard drive capped by Smith’s 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown to make it 26-0.

Once again the tired Meadowview offense was shut down and forced to punt. The Senators again took advantage as junior halfback Henley Hughes barreled his to a 35-yard touchdown run that made it 33-0 with 8:12 remaining in the game.

Meadowview Christian’s only score of the night capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive and came on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Chris Sewell to tight end Austin Dennis.

Despite his team’s setback, Jackson was pleased with the Trojans’ effort.

“I’m proud of them,” Jackson said. “We came in with 18 kids, counting two eighth graders. (Morgan Academy) is a very good football team, and our kids battled. We just got tired in the third quarter.”

With the Senators’ showdown with Faith one week away, Gartman compared last year’s Faith team to this season’s squad.

“They don’t have quite the same speed as last year,” he said, “but they’re bigger and stronger. I hope we continue doing the same thing as we have all year – hold on to the ball and don’t turn it over.”