MORRIS — After losing a 28-7 decision to Washington last week, Morris football coach Alan Thorson challenged his team to improve for Friday night's game against Crete-Monee.
The Redskins were up to the challenge, and used a power running game and stout defense to come away with a 21-19 victory that upped their record to 2-1.
"We challenged the kids this week," Thorson said. "After the offensive performance, or lack of it, we had last week, we put a challenge to them this week. We told them that this is when you find out if your team has character and heart, and they responded."
Crete-Monee didn't make it easy on the Redskins, as they took the opening kickoff and marched down the field. The Warriors needed just four plays, all runs, and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Morris to score. Mark Graziani scored on a 15-yard run with just 49 seconds gone off the clock to give the Warriors a 6-0 lead. Morris' Brandon Phelps blocked the extra-point kick.
The Morris offense punted on its first possession, but Redskin linebacker Chatten Dryfhout intercepted a pass at the Crete-Monee 34. The Redskins used seven runs and a pass to find the end zone, as Dryfhout scored from four yards out. Austin Hastings' kick gave Morris a 7-6 lead with 5:06 to play in the first.
The defenses took over for the rest of the first half, and the Redskins took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Morris received the second-half kickoff, but Crete-Monee intercepted a pass on the second play and took over at the Morris 28. On 4th and 7 from the 14, Warrior quarterback Vontrell Banks found Trayvon Rudolph for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The conversion run railed, and the Warriors took a 12-7 lead.
Dryfhout then returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to the Crete 28. Running out of the T formation, the Redskins used eight running plays to get into the end zone, with Austin Hatcher doing the scoring honors from a yard out. He then added the two-point conversion run for a 15-12 Morris lead with 5:49 to play in the third.
Morris spread the wealth in the running game, as Hatcher led with 55 yards on 12 carries. Phelps had 50 yards on 12 carries, Dryfhout had 48 yards on 19 carries and Tyler Petty had 35 yards on 11 attempts. Quarterback Mitchell Mayberry was 5 of 6 for 64 yards and a touchdown, a 10-yarder to Zach Reddinger in the fourth quarter that put Morris ahead, 21-12.
The touchdown pass looked like it might be intercepted by a Crete-Monee defender, but it went through his hands right into Reddinger's in the back of the end zone.
"I didn't even see their guy coming after it," Reddinger said. "I was just watching the ball because I knew I would be open."
The Morris defense continued to stifle the Crete-Monee offense, as Kade Kjellesvik recovered a fumble to end one Warrior drive and intercepted a pass to stop another.
"On the fumble, one of our linemen hit the runner and the ball just fell in front of me," Kjellesvik. "The interception, their quarterback just threw it right to me.
"We made some adjustments after their first drive and focused on stopping the run."
Crete-Monee put together a scoring drive late, as Rudolph scored on a 2-yard run with 22 seconds left. Morris' Hatcher recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
"This is a huge win for us," Thorson said. "2-1 looks a lot better than 1-2 heading into our conference schedule.
"Our offensive line did a great job and all of our backs ran hard and made big plays for us. Their first drive was kind of a feeling-out process. After that, [assistant] coaches [John] Courter and [Keith] Anderson made some great adjustments and the defense was outstanding."