COAL CITY — Midway through the third quarter Friday night, Coal City's Connor Skubic broke free for a 29-yard touchdown run, and Christian Knutson's kick tied the game with Morris, 7-7.
It was all Morris after that, though, as the Redskins answered with a touchdown on the ensuing drive and added one in the early stages of the fourth quarter to claim a 21-7 non-conference win in the first varsity meeting between the two schools.
A tough, hard-hitting Coal City defense kept Morris' power running game in check during the first half, as the Redskins managed a one-yard touchdown run by Tyler Petty to start the scoring with just under a minute left in the first quarter. Junior Brandon Phelps was key in that drive, carrying three times for 29 yards.
Neither team could score in the second quarter, and the Redskins, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A entering the game, took a 7-0 lead into halftime over the 4A No. 9-ranked Coalers.
"At halftime, we just told our kids to keep doing what they were doing," Coal City coach Dan Hutchings said. "We were right there with them, and they are a good football team. We aren't going to see anyone as big as they are unless we see them again in the playoffs."
It was the Morris size that took control after Skubic's touchdown tied it in the third.
The Redskins, who host Class 5A No. 1 Washington next Friday night, got a return to the 35 from Alex Cameron before embarking on a seven-play, 65-yard touchdown drive, all on the ground. Chatten Dryfhout broke loose on 3rd-and-5 for a 33-yard gain to the Coal City three, then went into the end zone on the next play. The kick failed, and Morris led, 13-7, with 1:20 to go in the third quarter.
"I liked the way we answered when they scored and tied it," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "We made some mistakes that hurt us, but we also did a lot of good things.
"I was really happy with our defense, especially with a lot of the new faces we have on that side of the ball."
On the next Coal City drive, the Morris defense was not fooled by a fake punt attempt by Coal City, and took over on the Coalers' 40. On second-and-10, Morris quarterback Mitchell Mayberry hit Zach Reddinger with a short pass. Reddinger broke a pair of tackles at the 20 and went the rest of the way into the end zone. Dryfhout added the two-point conversion run and the Redskins led, 21-7, with 9:03 to play.
Dryfhout led all rushers with 144 yards on 25 carries, while Skubic had 114 yards on 14 attempts for Coal City. Austin Hatcher had 46 yads on 11 attempts for the Redskins, while teammate Phelps had 40 yards on six carries. Mayberry completed 4 of 7 passes for 64 yards. Coal City's Payton Hutchings was 7 of 16 for 74 yards.
"This was a good football game," Dan Hutchings said. "We tied it at 7, but they just powered us and we couldn't match their power. We did some good things and we will be better next week.
"Our kids are upset that they lost, and they should be. But they also have nothing to be ashamed of. We think we are going to be a good football team."
"I thought all of our running backs ran well," Thorson said. "It was nice to get Reddinger involved in the passing game, and we still have some receivers that we want to get the ball to.
"I was happy with our defense. We gave up the long run to Skubic, but he's a good back and that's going to happen once in a while. Overall, we are happy with the win, but we need to clean some things up for next week."