Opening night of a high school football season holds many questions in search of answers.
The long trip to St. Bede Academy, in Peru, IL, on Friday, August 30, 2019, offered the Morrison Mustangs a last chance to mentally prepare to start the search for those answers.
St. Bede took the opening snap from center and rambled 25 yards. Seven plays later they scored on a 16-yard touchdown pass, to open the evening with a 7-0 lead. The Mustangs answered back with a seven-play 65-yard drive. It included a 55-yard touchdown by Keegan Anderson that was nullified by a penalty. Play was stopped on a fourth-and-one on the 1-foot line, to turn the ball over on downs.
The Mustangs defense tightened on the next Saint possession, forcing a punt that Sophomore Hunter Newman returned for a 68-yard touchdown. That put Morrison on the scoreboard. Two minutes later Newman scored again from 23-yards out and added a two point conversion, to up the Mustang advantage to 14-7 with 1:39 left in the half. An on-side kick by Riley Wilkens was recovered by Nick Allen on the ensuing kickoff on the Saint's 32-yard line. Quarterback Nathan Helms immediately connected on a 31-yard pass to Anderson to set up a 1-yard score by Wilkens, that was capped by a 2-point conversion by Anderson. The first half closed with the Mustangs in control at 22-7.
Some of the opening game questions found answers during the half, as the Mustangs came out to dominate the third and fourth quarters. The larger Morrison defense held the Saints to six snaps of the ball in the third quarter. They gained no yardage and created a fumble, recovered by Justice Brainerd. While the Saints were being held motionless, the Mustangs scored on a 32-yard scamper by Anderson and a 22-yard pass completion between Helms and Newman, to end the quarter up 34-7.
As the game wore on the Mustang size and speed took its toll. The Saint offense could muster only 49 yards in the final period. Nathan Mickley tacked on another score by galloping left end, for a 77-yard score to form the final margin of 41-7.
The stats offered some answers to the pre-game questions. Morrison defense controlled the game, after the opening drive by the Saints, by allowing only 132 total yards and 67 on the ground.
While the defense was doing its job, the offense collected 460 yards with 312 on the ground. Nine different players netted over ten yards. Five gained over 20 each. Helms connected on 11 of 13 pass attempts, for 148 yards.
Every game answers some questions and creates a few more. But if it ends in a 41-7 win, the analysis becomes becomes more enjoyable.