In the spring, the La Salle-Peru football team rallied from a two-score deficit to beat Morris by a point.
Morris had that on its mind as it came to Howard Fellows Stadium in Peru on Friday.
This time, Morris held the Cavaliers’ running game in check and capitalized on multiple turnovers to pull away for a 31-7 victory in a Kishwaukee River/Interstate Eight Conference White Division game in Peru.
Morris improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the league to set up a Week 9 showdown with Sycamore (6-2, 5-0) for the conference title.
“L-P is a good team,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “We knew it was going to be a tough environment. They beat us in the spring. That was something that’s been on our mind since we lost to them. I thought our kids did a really good job handling a lot of adversity.
“I thought our kids kept their composure and made plays when we needed. I was very proud of our defense creating turnovers and holding their offense at bay. Offensively, I still think we did some good things, but we were a little sloppy.
“It’s still a good win to get us to 8-0 and put us in position to play for a conference championship next week.”
Morris controlled the first half, running 49 plays to L-P’s 16 and outgaining the Cavaliers, 236-53, but only had a 10-7 lead to show for it.
Morris took command of the game late in the third quarter.
After a short punt and a personal foul on L-P set Morris up at the Cavalier 39-yard line, Morris needed just four plays to score with Ashton Yard scoring on a 4-yard run with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
Morris then held the Cavs to a three-and-out.
The snap sailed over the head of L-P punter Billy Mini into the end zone, and Morris junior Sam Reddinger pounced on it to extend Morris’ lead to 24-7 with 1:57 left in the third.
“That was big,” Morris linebacker Jorge Loza said. “It gave us a lot of enthusiasm on the sideline from the fans and everybody.”
Morris caused two more turnovers – a fumble recovery by Jonah Williams and an interception by A.J. Zweeres – and added a fourth-quarter touchdown when Zach Romak connected with Myles Johnston for an 11-yard TD pass with 6:49 left.
Yard finished with 95 yards and a TD on 16 carries, while Zach Romak ran for 53 yards and threw for 155 yards and a score.
“A lot of it was on our side cleaning up mistakes we were making,” Thorson said about how Morris capitalized on L-P’s miscues. “We had some holding calls and things like that. We just need to get back to our fundamentals and the things I know this team can do. We’re a very explosive offense. We average 40-something per game. We know we can score. The fumbles are what really killed us. That’s self-inflicted damage. We need to be better on that. Once we cleaned our game up and composed ourselves, I thought our boys played well.”
While Morris had some offensive troubles, its defense held L-P’s offense in check, limiting the Cavaliers to 186 yards, forcing five turnovers – three fumbles and two interceptions – and keeping the L-P offense out of the end zone.
Matt Carrico led L-P with 82 yards on 20 carries.
“I thought we played fantastic,” said Loza, who recovered a fumble to set up his 1-yard TD run for Morris’ lone touchdown of the first half. “I thought coach [John] Courter had a really good plan to stop their offense.
“It’s just making sure everybody did their job and making sure everybody is in the right place at the right time. It was about the defensive backs, defensive line and the linebackers filling holes – everybody doing their jobs.”
L-P’s defense kept it in the game, forcing Morris’ first four drives to end on a turnover on downs, two punts and a turnover.
The Cavs (5-3, 3-2) got on the scoreboard first when Morris fumbled on first-and-goal from the 8 and Ethan Ball scooped it up and raced 98 yards for a touchdown with 10:36 left in the second quarter.
Morris took a 10-7 halftime lead after Loza’s TD and a 27-yard field goal by Henry Hansen as time expired in the first half.
“We didn’t play very well again,” L-P coach Jose Medina said. “That’s the second week in a row we didn’t do a very good job. We made too many errors. Special teams gave up a TD. We just can’t do that against a good team like this.
“We fought hard the first half and fought hard into the third quarter until we made some mistakes. There just didn’t seem like there was a flow to the game. There were too many penalties. It might have taken us out of our rhythm. I don’t know.
“Our defense has been playing lights out. We just have to get our offense to move the ball and put points on the board. We have to work on getting better next week.”