MAPLE PARK – The Morris football team was on a mission.
In both of its losses so far this season, Morris had gotten off to a slow start on the road. Before Friday night’s Northern Illinois Big XII East game against Kaneland, Morris coach Alan Thorson challenged his team to not do it again.
Whatever he said worked.
Morris (5-2, 2-1) began the game by holding Kaneland to a three-and-out, sparked by a 10-yard sack by Sean Grogan. Then, fullback Keagan Sobol broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run on Morris’ first play from scrimmage, providing the opening shot in a 34-3 victory that the Redskins dominated from start to finish. After missing out on the playoffs last season, Morris became playoff-eligible with its fifth victory of the season.
“We knew we had to get out of the gates quick,” Sobol said. “Kaneland can put up points, so we knew we had to keep up with them. Our first two road games, we didn’t start off very well, but you could tell – even on the bus ride up here – that this game was going to be different.”
Morris kept running all night, finishing with more than 450 rushing yards. Michael Feeney led the way with 167 yards on 19 carries, while Sobol had 115 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. Quarterback Ricky Del Favero also topped 100 yards, getting 101 on nine attempts, including a 45-yard touchdown, while Michael Gerischer had 52 yards on seven carries.
“I challenged some of the guys before the game,” Thorson said. “Specifically, the three captains [Feeney, Sobol and Gerischer] and the offensive line. I told them that this is the time that we really needed them to step up, and they did a great job.”
In the first quarter, Kaneland’s defense kept things close.
Drew Hahn recovered a fumble at the Morris 33, and the Knights reached the 9 before Andreas Matarangas kicked a 26-yard field goal to make it 7-3. On the next drive, Kaneland’s Luke Calabrese intercepted Del Favero at the Knights’ 41, but they couldn’t score.
Kaneland (3-4, 1-3) punted, and Morris embarked on an 80-yard drive, highlighted by a 40-yard burst by Del Favero that ended with Sobol in the end zone from two yards out and a 14-3 lead with 8:54 to go until halftime. Morris linebacker Merrick Hairapetian then recovered a Kaneland fumble at the Knights’ 46; and Sobol scored for the third time, this one from eight yards, to make it 21-3.
Morris got the ball to start the second half and scored quickly, as Del Favero burst through the middle of the Kaneland defense for a 45-yard TD. Kaneland was able to get a 38-yard pass play from Jack Douglas to Alex Moses late in the third quarter that helped them reach the Morris 19, but Redskins defensive back Delaney Stutzki intercepted Douglas on the final play of the third quarter. Morris then salted the game away with an 11-play, 56-yard drive to make it 34-3 as Gerischer scored from a yard out. Stutzki added another interception on the Knights’ ensuing drive.
“Kaneland is a good program and very well-coached,” Thorson said. “This is probably the best game we have played, start to finish, all season. We still have some things we need to clean up. We had some penalties that hurt us, dropped a sure touchdown pass.”