Offensive, Defensive effort propels Hurricanes 49-23
Morristown East coach Dwayne Hatcher talks with Matthew Thompson (1) and Jeremy Fultz (17) on Friday night as the game clock expired. The Hurricanes won 49-23 at Burke-Toney Stadium behind a strong defensive effort and long TD runs from Thompson.
Matt Thompson rushed for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half and East turned a pair of West fumbles into 14 points in a 17-second span to break open a tight game Friday night at jam-packed Burke-Toney Stadium and the Hurricanes went on to a 49-23 city championship victory.
It was the most points ever scored by the Hurricanes in the city championship and snapped a four-game skid in the series which West now leads 25-17. It was the first time East had won as the visiting team since 1997.
Thompson unleashed touchdown runs of 57, 1 and 61 yards with the final one snapping a 14-14 tie midway of the second period. Bubba Tharp then returned a fumble 4 yards to score and Bailey Overbay picked up a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and took it back to the Trojan 1 with Chris Logan scoring on the next play for a 35-14 halftime lead.
From there, the Hurricanes cruised to their fifth victory against a single loss.
Coach Dwayne Hatcher’s club is now 2-1 in Inter Mountain Conference action.
For the Trojans, it was their fifth straight loss after a season-opening victory and drops them to 0-3 in league play. And West may have lost its starting quarterback in the process as Will Gardner went down with an apparent knee injury when he was sacked on Tharp’s touchdown play.
Hatcher said he knew his team was ready,
“I knew our kids were ready to play because they were focused all week in practice. I really want to compliment our defense. Wednesday, I got on them hard and they responded like champions tonight and I want to acknowledge the job they did.
“All our kids did a good job,” he continued. “I thought we played hard and showed a lot of class and character. When something bad happened tonight, they didn’t hit the panic button, they went out there and just kept on playing.”
The coach said, “The two fumbles were huge and just another example of how we got after them on defense. Offensively, Matt had a great first half but we couldn’t get him going in the second half. He grew up playing with a lot of those kids on the other side of town and this game meant a lot to him. That showed in how he played tonight.”
Thompson finished the night with 182 yards and now needs only 54 yards to set a new career rushing record East.
He had lots of help on Friday as quarterback Logan Wallace ran for one TD and passed for another to pace the ‘Canes 270-yard offense. Chris Logan scored on a 1-yard run, caught 2 passes for 50 yards and kicked 7 extra points for the Eastmen.
Overbay led the East defense with 10 tackles and 3 assists while Jawane Cuberson and Tharp had 9 and 8 tackles respectively. Seth English, Jacob Samsel and Bryson Stephens also played very well in the Hurricane secondary. Samsel also had a great night punting, averaging 40.3 on 6 kicks.
The Trojans fought back from a 14-0 deficit to tie the count on a 27-yard TD toss from Gardner to Isaiah Dial and Calvin Smith’s 33-yard interception return for a TD. Sophomore Aaron Jones came on at quarterback when Gardner was injured and tossed a 41-yard TD strike to Alex Strader in the third quarter.
West finished with 287 on offense as DeAndre Delaney ran for 131 on 22 carries and Zach Pell added 87 on 16 tries. Jones was 9 of 15 for 81 yards while Gardner was good on 3 of 9 for 42.
Trojan coach Lamar Brown said, “I thought we battled there at the start and got back in the game at 14-14, but that two minute span just killed us at the end of the second quarter. It took us out of a lot of stuff we wanted to do, but I did think we continued to fight and played hard.
“This group seems like it is getting younger by the second, but we are six games into it,” he added. “We have got to grow up these last four games. It’s playoff time for us right now.” In talking about the loss of Gardner, Brown remarked, “Will is the leader of the offense and a great young man, and when he went down, it took some wind out of us, but I thought AJ stepped in and played well. The biggest quality AJ has is that he is a competitor. When the lights come on, he will compete. We’re going to be fine with AJ there. He’s going to do a great job, and he is going to play very well.
The two teams exchanged punts to open the game before the Trojans got a pair of first downs before having to kick again. Thompson returned the punt 13 yards to the East 43 and on the first play he took a handoff over the left side, broke free at the line of scrimmage and outran everyone for his 57-yard TD to open the scoring at the 7:03 mark of the first quarter.
After the kickoff, Gardner was back to punt on fourth down and instead lofted a pass just out of the reach of Josh Black with East taking over at the Trojan 43. After an incomplete pass, Thompson ripped off a 41-yard run to the 2. It took 4 plays to score with Thompson barely getting into the end zone on fourth down. Logan made it 14-0 with 5:13 left in the third.
However, West responded quickly, going 77 yards in 8 plays. Pell’s 24-yard run was the big play before Gardner teamed with Dial for the six points on a third-and-13 play. Chase Collins’ PAT made it 14-7 with 3:24 left in the first and it looked like it would be a shootout.
After an exchange of punts, Smith stepped in front of a receiver as East tried to throw a quick out pass. The sophomore made the play and raced untouched into the end zone.
East took the kickoff and, on the first play, Wallace faked the quick out and had two receivers open only to be dragged down for a 14-yard sack by Sawyer Bruce and Taylor Dollar. But on the next snap, Thompson went off the right side again, avoided a tackler at the line of scrimmage and took off again for a 61-yard score that put the Hurricanes in front for good.
One of the biggest plays of the night came at the 1:49 mark of the half when Gardner dropped to throw from his 34. He retreated deeper to try and avoid a big rush but was sacked by Zach Helton at the 10 with the ball popping out. Tharp picked up the prize at the 4 and scored to make it 28-14. On the kickoff, the ball came loose again and bounced into the arms of Overbay who took it all the way to the 1 before being knocked out of bounds. Logan dove across the middle of the line to score on the first play and then kicked the extra point for a 35-14 lead.
Early in the third quarter, Jones hit Black with passes of 15 and 11 on back-to-back plays before Delaney ran for 13 with a 15-yard face mask penalty tacked on to move the ball to the East 22. But an offensive pass interference penalty backed the Trojans up and English sacked Jones on fourth down to end the threat.
The ‘Canes took over and went 64 yards in 4 plays, mainly on a 44-yard pass to Logan. The points came on a 9-yard TD strike from Wallace to Isaiah Kyle. Logan made it 42-14 with 6:07 left in the third.
West came right back to march 80 yards in 6 plays. Pell had a 14-yard run before Jones connected with Strader down the middle to make it 42-21 with 3:46 left in the third.
Late in the quarter, West was backed deep into its own territory by a 15-yard loss and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. When the Trojans punted, Devin Young returned 9 yards to the West 32.
It took 7 plays for East to score again. Logan had a 10-yard run and Wallace passed 13 yards to Logan Jefferson and then added an 8-yard run before scoring from the 1 with 10:34 left in the game.
Midway of the final quarter, the Trojans moved from their 18 all the way to a first-and-goal at the East 7. Jones hit passes of 8 yards to Black and 11 to Isaac Woodard before Delaney broke free on a 43-yard run. The ball was still at the 7 three plays later and a fourth-down pass appeared to be headed for a Trojan TD before Overbay knocked the ball out of the receiver’s hands with a big hit in the end zone.
East took over and gave the Trojans a safety on a fourth-down play from their 3 that saw punter Samsel run all the way across the field in the end zone before stepping out the back. The clock never started on the play and the referees ran it down to 3.2 seconds.
In addition to most points, the Hurricanes also established several other new marks for themselves in the city championship including touchdowns (7), extra points (7), points in a quarter (21) and points in a half (35). New series marks for the Trojans are pass attempts (25) and completions (12). The teams set combined records for points (72), extra points (10) and points in a half (49). The only new individual record for the game was the 7 extra points by Logan.
- By Derwin Helton, Tribune Sports Writer