Morgan wins top region seed

Published 2:36 am Saturday, October 24, 2009

With senior night for the scarlet and gold Senators of Morgan Academy, it was only fitting they would play one of their best games of the season coming from behind in the fourth quarter to beat a scrappy Prattville Christian squad 23-19.

The win gave the Senators (5-4, 5-1 Class AAA Region 2) the regional championship and assured them of a first-round game at home in the playoffs.

“You know, we used to get down but we don’t look at the score,” said Senators first-year head coach Brian King. “We just went out there and did what we had to do.”

What the Senators had to do was overcome a 13-point first-half deficit and snatch the momentum from the Panthers.

That turnaround started after Prattville missed a PAT and the Senators’ Jody Glover took the ensuing kickoff back 22 yards and set Morgan up at its own 44-yard line. The Senators then ground out a five-minute, 56-yard drive that culminated with senior running back Cody Wheat’s dive for a TD from one yard out. Lanny Harrison added the PAT to draw Morgan to within one TD at the half, 13-7.

“Scoring that TD right before half was major,” Kind said. “We went in with an edge and we came out with an edge.”

Morgan’s edge and determination showed on the second half kickoff when the Senators’ Reid Fondren raced down the field and scooped up the kickoff to give Morgan the ball and set up the go-ahead score.

The 30-yard drive was highlighted by junior signal caller Austin Smitherman’s 15-yard keeper and capped by another Wheat rumble into the end zone from three-yards out. Harrison again split the uprights giving the Senators a 14-13 lead, but it would be short lived.

After recovering a Morgan fumble, one of three turnovers on the night for the Senators, Prattville’s Richard Long took a screen pass 59-yards down the right sidelines for a TD. The two-point conversion failed, but the Panther’s led again, 19-14.

The Senators looked to score again after a long drive highlighted by Ryan Traylor’s 57-yard pass reception from Smitherman, but Prattville’s defense tightened up and Morgan turned the ball over on downs at Prattville’s two-yard line. That’s when Morgan’s defense stepped up. Prattville’s QB Nick Hoots dropped back in his own end zone to pass, but linebacker Frankie Wilbourne shot the gap and forced Hoots into an intentional grounding penalty causing a safety and drawing the Senators to within three points at 19-16.

Prattville maintained that lead late into the fourth quarter and seemed to have things in hand, but with just under four minutes remaining Panther’s head coach Grey Powell decided to go for it on fourth and two from his own 39-yard line, which turned out to be a bad move. Morgan held, setting up the game winning drive.

The drive began with a Wheat surge up the middle for six yards followed by a Smitherman to Heath Brantley pass play that gained 18-yards. Smitherman capped the drive with a sprint around left end from 15-yards out. Harrison added the PAT giving the Senators a 23-19 win.

“We started out a little slow, but we finished strong,” said Smitherman, who suffered from a sprained ankle all night, but went 6-for-11 passing for 99-yards and added 71-yards rushing. “Tonight was all about the seniors. It’s all about them this year.”

Wheat, who rushed for 187-yards last week added another 58-yards rushing on 19 attempts this week. Wilbourne and Taylor Bone led the defense with 12-tackles each.

“All year long in big games we haven’t played to the best of our ability,” Powell said. “This is the biggest game we’ve been in and I told our guys all week that (Morgan) had the tradition, it’s at their place, but tonight we played to our ability.”

Morgan entertains Wilcox for homecoming next week while Prattville hosts Monroe. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.