JOHNSON CITY — Morristown West’s inner strength was displayed on the field, if not on the scoreboard, Friday night at Kermit Tipton Stadium. The Trojans fell 42-15 to Science Hill, but continued to battle down to the final whistle.
“I’m very proud of my guys,” coach Alvin Sanders said. “Right now, we’re in the process of rebuilding and learning how to put some things together. We’ve got to learn how to play football. We’ve got to learn how to win games. It’s been ugly, but we’ve made progress. We just have to keep that mentality. We’ve got a bunch of guys that adversity doesn’t faze. We’re going to continue to fight. That’s who we are. In a year or two when these guys grow up, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Morristown West’s final drive summed up their spirit. Already down 42-7 since the opening of the third quarter, the Trojans (1-5, 0-3 Region 1-6A) weren’t content to let the mercy-rule clock continue to run. Morristown West uncorked a 12-play drive fueled by tough running between the tackles by Hunter Delaney and pinpoint passing from Dylan Cribley. Cribley capped the drive by hitting his favorite target on the night, Connor Patrick, on a 14-yard touchdown strike. Patrick finished with nine catches for 101 yards and a TD.
A bad snap on the extra point was scooped up by West’s holder, Elijah Richardson, who turned the right corner and dove at the pylon for what would turn out to be a successful two-point conversion.
The running clock was gone, and while the Trojans had no chance to come back, it was still a valiant showing from a team that could have folded its tent in the second half.
“For a long time, the effort was something we felt like we had to coach and teach,” Sanders said. “Right now that’s not the issue for us. Our guys are going to play hard. They’re going to play to the end. Now we have to go out and execute night-in and night-out.”
Science Hill opened the game with a touchdown drive finished with a one-yard touchdown dive from Braden Anderson. Morristown West answered right back, with a punishing drive on the ground.
Once the Trojans were in the redzone, they went to the air as Cribley found Jackson Cole down the left sideline for a 21-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.
“It was a huge confidence booster,” Sanders said. “We know we can play with anybody. That drive showed that when we go out and execute, we can be successful. The game got away when we had a turnover and they got a big score. With a young football team, you’ve got to keep playing and not worry about the score. The little things start to build. We have to learn to play, clean it up and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Turnovers would spell disaster for Morristown West on their following possessions and Science Hill (3-5, 3-1) capitalized on all of them. The Hilltoppers took the lead for good on a Malik Bowman seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Connor Batchelder tossed three touchdown passes to cap a 28-point second that put the game away. In the opening drive of the third, Batchelder hit Cole Torbett for a 21-yard touchdown that started the running clock.
Hunter Delaney finished with 33 carries for 115 yards for the Trojans. Cribley was 15-of-23 for 137 yards, two TDs and a pick.
Bowman led Science Hill with seven carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. Batchelder was 12-of-15 for 216 yards and four TDs. Torbett caught six passes for 97 yards and two scores.
Morristown West will return home to Burke-Toney Stadium next Friday in a Region 1-6A contest against undefeated Dobyns-Bennett (7-0, 4-0). Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m.