MORRIS — The deeper a football team gets into the playoffs, the more it takes an entire team effort to get a win and reach the next round.
Morris' 14-9 win Saturday over Rochelle in the Class 4A semifinals was such an effort.
All season leading up to Saturday, Nolan Feeney and Tyler Petty were mainstays on the offense. The 6-foot-3, 282-pound Feeney anchored the offensive line as the center and the 5-8, 250 Petty was the fullback, providing lead blocks and short-yardage carries.
However, late in the first quarter Saturday, both Feeney and Petty found themselves summoned to play on the defensive line as Rochelle faced a 4th-and-goal play from the Redskins' 2-yard line.
They helped the rest of the defensive line negate a push by Rochelle's offensive line and stopped the play short of the end zone, keeping the game at a scoreless tie.
"We had practiced doing that during the week," Feeney said. "So, I wasn't surprised when they called me in on defense. I just wanted to do whatever it took to help the team win."
It was the second of five trips the Rochelle offense made into the Redskins' red zone, and Morris allowed just a touchdown and a field goal on those possessions. The first ended when Payton Voitik intercepted a pass at the 10.
The second was the goal-line stand. The third resulted in a 42-yard field goal after Chatten Dryfhout came through with a nine-yard sack to push the Hubs back.
The fourth possession reached the Morris 10-yard line before a chop block penalty on Rochelle moved the ball back to the 25, and Morris got a tackle for loss by Sam Brady and sacks by Kameron Dransfeldt and Cody Baldridge to move it back to the 34 and force a punt.
The fifth was a 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that made the score 14-9. Rochelle tried for a two-point conversion to pull to within three points, but Morris stuffed that attempt as well.
"Our coaches tell us that the red zone is the no zone," Voitik said. "We want to say no when a team gets there and not let them score. Rochelle is a really good football team and we knew they would get some yards, but we didn't want to let them finish drives and score on us."
Also instrumental in the strong defensive effort Saturday was Dransfeldt. The senior quad-captain normally makes his mark on a game on the offensive side of the ball, and he did that with 120 rushing yards on 18 carries. But he also helped anchor the defense with six tackles, including a team-high three sacks.
Other key players for the defense were Avery Hofmann (10 tackles, 1 sack), Sam Brady (team-high 11 tackles), Dryfhout (9 tackles, 1 sack) Alonzo Enriques (5 tackles, 2 sacks), Kaden Laurie (9 tackles) and Blake Breyman (9 tackles).
"I can't say enough about the defense," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "That is a very good team that they just held to nine points. Kaden Laurie was outstanding. We had him basically following [Rochelle fullback Alex] Harvey all game. And the rest of the defense all came up big when we needed them to. You can name anyone out there and come up with a big play that they made."
Harvey, Rochelle's leading ground gainer entering the game, was held to 59 yards on 16 carries.
Offensively, the Redskins have made their living this season on the ground. But, Rochelle was doing a good job of slowing the Morris running game down, so the passing game had to play a bigger role.
Quarterback Mitchell Mayberry completed 8 of 13 passes for 131 yards. Both of Morris' touchdowns came through the air, on passes of 11 yards and 15 yards to 6-foot-5 Tyler Spiezio.
"We knew we could throw on them because we were able to in the last game," Thorson said. "Spiezio made two outstanding catches in the end zone."