Diversity helps Morris take down feisty Pirates

Redskins’ varied attack, strong defense drops Ottawa to 0-3

OTTAWA – For the second week in a row, Ottawa showed improvement on defense.

Unfortunately, against a team that can do as many things offensively as Morris, that advantage didn’t last very long.

The Pirates turned in a stellar first half of defense, forcing two turnovers and limiting a potent Redskins’ attack that averaged 31 points a game through the first two weeks to only seven points on Saturday.

Those results didn’t stretch into the second half, however, as Morris junior quarterback Zach Romak completed all 12 of his passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns over the last two quarters en route to a 35-6 win over Ottawa at King Field.

That Romak diversified his game, alternating rushing (17 carries, 94 yards, one TD) and throwing (17 of 25 for 186 yards, 3 TDs) out of the shotgun formation, knocked Ottawa’s plan off balance in the last two quarters.

“We’re a running team, but because of the quarterback we have, we throw more than we traditionally have, and that worked for us today.”

—  Morris football coach Alan Thorson

Meanwhile, Ottawa’s offense managed only one score, although that was a doozy – an electrifying 52-yard burst by Javarius Whitfield in the second quarter. But that accounted for the better part of the 74 yards that the Pirates got on 27 carries and the 137 total yards on the day.

Quarterback Braiden Miller, who was pressured almost every time he dropped back, connected on 6 of 18 passes for 57 yards, while Bryant Schomas added 15 carries for 31 yards.

“Defensively, for the second week in a row, I was really happy with our defensive start, especially with a freshman and three sophomores in the secondary making their first varsity starts,” Ottawa coach Chad Gross said. “I’m very proud of their effort and the way we contained Morris in the first half. But in the second half, they started getting to the perimeter and using their bubbles [screens] a little bit more, and that opened up the run for them more.

“Their quarterback had some nice scrambles on broken plays and that hurt us too, some missed tackles when we were tired in the second half. They just don’t stop coming at you with that no-huddle, hurry-up that spreads you out.”

With the running games slowed, Morris reached the Pirates’ 19-yard line by throwing, but an interception by Levi Sheehan halted the threat. After a short punt, Romak broke several tackles for a 37-yard score to put Morris in front.

Another pick, this one by the Pirates’ Connor Price and a defensive stand at Ottawa’s 16 just before the half left it at 7-0 Morris.

But in the third quarter, Romak ran or passed on eight of 12 plays for an opening 68-yard scoring drive – the last a seven-yard TD strike to Parker Skubic to pad Morris’ lead.

Ottawa answered with Whitfield’s run, an effort in which he stepped out of several tackles on his way to pay dirt to break the spell. That really is all the Redskins defense allowed, holding the Pirates to only a trio of three-and-outs the rest of the way.

Romak fired a 27-yard fade to Skubic for the clincher. He later capped the day in the fourth with a 9-yard scoring aerial to Nathan Jepson and a 4-yard TD burst that, with Henry Hansen’s fifth PAT kick of the day, created the final score.

“Morris plays a lot of man-to-man in the secondary, then tries to bring pressure on you, and they were able to get home against Braiden today,” Gross said. “He made some nice throws, but they just got to him before we could make big plays of our own.”

Morris finished the day with 396 total yards and 24 first downs to only nine first downs for the Pirates.

“We saw Ottawa last week against Sycamore. Coach Gross is doing a good job with those guys, and they’re getting better,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “They’ve done a great job of stopping the run, but running our quarterback is part of our offense.

“Ottawa was loading the box, selling out to stop the run. So when we ran him, it gave us an extra blocker, and when we had some success, it opened up the passing and the other backs a bit. We’re a running team but because of the quarterback we have, we throw more than we traditionally have, and that worked for us today.”