Morris offensive, defensive lines overwhelm Richmond-Burton in 35-7 win

Carter Button after Morris beat Richmond-Burton, 35-7, on Friday Sept. 29, 2023.

MORRIS – Entering Friday night’s Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 crossover game, both Richmond-Burton and Morris were perfect at 5-0.

For most of the night, Morris quarterback Carter Button was perfect as well. Button completed the first nine passes he threw, including four for touchdowns, in leading his team to a 35-7 win, handing the Rockets (5-1) their first regular-season loss since 2018 in emphatic fashion.

Button hit Griffin Zweeres on a 7-yard TD pass to cap the game’s opening drive, a drive that saw him go 4 for 4 for 39 yards. R-B answered with a long drive that chewed up more than 7:30 off the clock but came away empty on a turnover on downs at the Morris 24.

Morris embarked on a 76-yard scoring drive that ended with a perfectly thrown 40-yard TD pass from Button to Ethan Mumbrue and a 14-0 lead with 11:13 to play in the second quarter. Button finished 9 of 10 for 169 yards and four TDs, leaving him one shy of tying the school record for career touchdown passes.

“I have to credit the offensive line,” Button said. “I didn’t get touched all night. I hardly even saw any pressure.

“It feels good to get this win. We heard a lot of talk from them during the week, mentioning last year’s score [a 31-7 Richmond-Burton win]. It was nice to one-up them on that. Actually, four-up them, I guess.”

The Rockets then went on another long drive, this one finding the end zone when quarterback JT Groh snuck in from a yard out, to cut the lead to 14-7.

Morris, however, got it right back. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Button threw a short pass to AJ Zweeres on jet sweep action. Zweeres got a big block from Jacob Swartz on the edge to turn the corner and another from Jack Wheeler well down the field to spring him on a 62-yard TD reception and a 21-7 lead that Morris (6-0) took into halftime.

R-B received the second-half kickoff and made another long march, reaching the Morris 21 before turning it over on downs again. Swartz (24 carries, 153 yards, TD, one reception, 23 yards) then ripped off a 38-yard run and a personal foul penalty on R-B put the ball at the Rockets’ 22.

Swartz then ran for gains of 10 and 9 yards before another personal foul gave Morris first-and-goal from the 2. Swartz bulled over from there, putting Morris ahead 28-7.

“We had a couple of long drives that we needed to finish,” R-B coach Mike Noll said. “We were trying to take time off the clock and keep their offense off the field, but we needed to finish those drives with points, and we didn’t.

“Morris is a very good team, and we got outplayed tonight. Give all the credit in the world to them.”

Swartz was quick to give credit to his offensive line.

“It’s funny because a lot of people were saying that our offensive line wasn’t going to be very good,” he said. “I want all of them mentioned – Brogan Kjellesvik at left tackle, Christian Arndt at left guard, Dakota Goff at center, Mike Valverde at right guard, Mason Stapleton at right tackle and Vaughn Mills at wing. They opened up huge holes. They have worked their [butts] off all year, and I am so lucky to run behind them.

“I’ll say this now, too. We have one of the best defenses in the state.”

That defense continued to shut down the Rockets. Chase Bachert delivered a sack on the next R-B drive, forcing a punt, and Morris took over at its own 47. A 14-yard run by Swartz ended the third quarter, and he eventually caught a 23-yard TD pass from Button on a 3rd-and-11 play to cap the scoring.

The Morris defense wasn’t done, however, as linebacker Connor Mettille recovered a Rocket fumble at the Morris 23 to seal the victory.

“The D-line really stepped up huge tonight,” Mettille said. “And the other linebacker, Blaine Beshoar, was all over the place tonight. But the interior of the defensive line did a great job of getting penetration and keeping blockers off of us linebackers.

“We knew with the offense rolling the way it was we just needed to get a couple of stops and we would be fine. That long drive of theirs to start the second half was huge for us to not allow any points.”

Morris coach Alan Thorson had praise all around for his team.

“I don’t know if I have ever seen a team that motivated for a regular-season game,” he said. “They read it all on the message boards and social media all week about how they beat us last year, how our defense can be scored on, stuff like that. They took it personally, and the only opinion that matters to these kids is the opinion in the locker room.

“The offensive line was great. Carter didn’t get touched, Jacob had huge holes to run through. And we have so many weapons. Carter might be the best quarterback I have ever coached, and he has guys like Swartz, AJ, Ethan Mumbrue, who had a big catch tonight. Guys like Brett Bounds and Jack Wheeler didn’t get the ball much tonight, but they blocked great. Our receivers know that with as many good guys as we have, it’s not always going to be their week, and they are fine with that.

“A lot of credit to our defense, too. Coach [Ryan] Clauson [the defensive coordinator] did a great job of preparing the guys and calling the defenses. The defensive line – Dan Riley, Chase Bachert, Vaughn Mills, Hayden Hutchcraft, Carter Laudeman and Omarion Miller – were outstanding tonight. That’s a big fullback they have, and we shut that down. I think the state might start realizing how good we are.”