MORRISON – Steve Snider warned his Morrison Mustangs heading into Friday’s Three Rivers Rock game that the difference between them and the winless Sherrard Tigers was as small as the ball bouncing one way or another a couple times.
That proved prophetic in Sherrard’s 26-22 win.
The ball bounced just right for the Mustangs to start the night, but when it mattered most, it bounced away from the hands of receiver Chase Newman on a tightly contested chance in the end zone on a fourth-down play with mere seconds left and Morrison trailing by four.
Sherrard took over possession of the ball, and after a kneel down, the Tigers also took possession of their first win in 13 games.
“That’s a football team that’s had the ball bounce a couple different ways than we did coming into the game, and they were 0-4 and we were 2-2, and it could have easily been the other way. They have a good football team,” Snider said. “We did have our chances. Hats off to Sherrard, they came in here prepared and ready to go, and they made more plays than we did.”
Sherrard (1-4, 1-2 Three Rivers Rock) trailed 22-20 when it took possession of the ball at its own 40 after a Morrison touchdown and kickoff with 3:58 left. On the first play, Carter Brown broke free on a run for 30 yards to the Morrison 30. After a short completion, Brown was the target of quarterback Holland Anderson for a 16-yard pass to get Sherrard to the Morrison 11-yard line. After two runs netting 5 yards, Anderson found Brown again at the goal line, and Brown tapped his toes to stay in-bounds for the touchdown.
“I had full confidence that he [Brown] was going to get that,” Anderson said. “I put the ball a little on the outside so that the defender couldn’t get it. He got that toe-tap, and we made that connection.
“This is amazing. We’ve been doing it for twelve games now, trying to turn this program around. This was our turning point for the season.”
On the ensuing drive, Morrison went to the air regularly for the first time. The Mustangs’ Danny Mouw completed two short passes before connecting with Newman for 38 yards to the Sherrard 18-yard line. Morrison had an incompletion, and then had to burn its final timeout after a sack of Mouw, before two incompletions to end the potential rally and the game.
“I knew our defense could do that,” Anderson said. “It took all four downs, but our defense sealed the deal.”
After the opening kickoff, Mouw pitched the ball to Logan Baker on the first play from scrimmage. The ball bounced off Baker’s chest, and then off the ground and back into Baker’s hands; from there, the Morrison senior took it 61 yards for a touchdown. Baker led Morrison (2-3, 1-1) with 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was the final score of the first half for Morrison.
“We didn’t do things right every time that we had the ball,” Snider said. “First half, we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties. It felt like we moved the ball 30 yards a play, but we were staying in the same place because of the penalties.”
Anderson started making big plays with his arm late in the second quarter, connecting with Brody Bemien for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the score 6-6 going into half.
The air attack continued after halftime, as Anderson hit Kyler Schmidt for passes of 38, 39, and 24 yards in the first two series. The last one went for a touchdown to gave Sherrard a brief 12-6 lead.
“Schmidt was out the last two games, as soon as he came back, we knew he could do things for us,” Anderson said. “They started to double on him, so we went to other guys, and they made plays for us, too.”
Anderson went 14 for 20 with 211 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Schmidt had five of those receptions for 137 yards.”
“The quarterback did a nice job of throwing the ball,” Snider said. “We knew watching tape that he could really throw the ball, and their receivers ran some good routes and made every catch that came to them.”
Morrison kept fighting, responding to the Schmidt touchdown with a 67-yard drive mostly on the legs of freshman Brady Anderson, who carried the ball five times for 59 yards on the drive, including a 22-yard touchdown scamper.
Sherrard sped back down field on the next possession, thanks in part to a 26-yard pass from Anderson to Schmidt. Moments later, the Tigers went up 20-14 on a 1-yard plunge by Izaac Novitske.
Morrison went three-and-out on the next drive, giving Sherrard the chance to ice the game. Instead, Donny Reavy knocked the ball away from Anderson on a third-down play, and teammate Aidan Dolieslager recovered the ball at the Sherrard 22-yard line.
The Mustangs took their final lead with 4:04 left at 22-20 with an 11-yard run by Baker.
“They are resilient group, a very tough group,” Snider said. “This is a tough loss in a long season. We regroup, watch tape late this weekend, and bounce back. They hate losing. They are taking it pretty hard right now, but they are going to come back and get ready for a tough Rockridge group next week.”