By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer
Everything was in place last Friday night just before the opening kickoff.
The teams were there.
The cheerleaders were on the sidelines, having already held the banner up for the Bulldogs, who tore through the screen with their heightened, game-day fervor.
The band warmed up in the stands, ready to play all night for the team, if they had to.
The concession stands were there, thankful for a recently-installed net protecting them from any errant balls heading their way.
And the feet of hundreds of Morgan County fans thundered in the stands as the Bulldogs set up to receive the opening kickoff against the Greene County Tigers, Morgan County’s AA rivals.
The Tigers attempted an onside kick but drew a penalty on the play, forcing them back five yards.
Greene’s second kickoff was returned to the 32-yard line by Griffin Sorohan, and a series of penalties pushed the Dogs back to the 4-yard line before they began to make forward progress. A 16-yard pass to Justice Chapman followed by a 41-yard pass play to Sorohan got Morgan County out of their hole and into Greene territory.
The Dogs got close but had to attempt a field goal from the 30-yard line, but the kick never got the ball high enough to go over the crossbar.
Greene broke through Morgan County’s defense on the second play of their drive, scoring their first touchdown with an 82-yard carry.
With half of the first quarter remaining, the Dogs began a long drive from their 20-yard line into the endzone. Double-digit runs by both Melvin Davis and Sam Couch pushed Morgan County up the field, but Davis gained the final four yards, and the extra point by Andrew Bishop tied the score 7-7.
The Tigers punted the ball back to the Dogs for the last play of the first quarter, but Morgan County wasn’t able to pick up a first down, and Greene got their first try in the second quarter.
It only took Greene seven plays to get back into the end zone; a 19-yard pass play before the extra point gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead.
Morgan County advanced from the 20-yard line to the 48-yard line during the first six plays of their next drive, before Trey Chapman came close to finishing the campaign, carrying the ball 49 yards to the three-yard line.
Trent Hawk scored the touchdown one play later with a three-yard carry, but a botched snap prevented a successful point after attempt, so the Dogs were one point short of a tie at 13-14.
Determined not to finish the first half behind, Morgan County advanced 55 yards in three plays – aided by a 15-yard penalty by Greene – and Trey Chapman got to score his first touchdown of the night with a 20-yard carry.
To make up for the missed extra point, the Dogs went for a two-point conversion, and Davis successfully carried the ball in, bringing the score to 21-14 just before halftime.
During the break between the halves, the bands from Morgan County and Greene County took the field to show off their halftime shows.
The Marching Dogs eclipsed the Greene County performance in terms of size and complexity. The Lion King-themed show was both visually impressive and sonically interesting, giving a relaxed impression of a Broadway show on the Morgan County field.
The Tigers got off on the wrong foot during the second half, having to punt after three plays, and then incurring a facemask penalty to put the Bulldogs within 40 yards of the end zone.
A 36-yard pass play by Hawk to Trey Chapman got Morgan County within the Tigers’ 10-yard line, but the Dogs couldn’t cross the line, forcing them to resort to a field goal for three points.
Just before the end of the third quarter, a botched punt attempt by Morgan County from around the 20-yard line let the ball loose near the end zone, and Tristan Yontz, in an attempt to recover the ball, inadvertently pushed the ball out of the end zone, resulting in a safety for Greene County to make the score 24-16.
Greene County also had a problem with a snap near their own end zone just after the beginning of the fourth quarter, which resulted in a fumble that Tez Mathis recovered in the Tigers’ end zone for a touchdown.
The extra point put Morgan County’s lead at 31-16, where it would remain for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs were in position for another field goal attempt near the end of the fourth quarter, but, again, the attempt was unsuccessful.
Mathis recovered another Tiger fumble during the last minutes of the game to take possession away from Greene for the last time.
This Friday, Sept. 13, the Bulldogs will face the Putnam War Eagles, who Coach Bill Malone describes as the “biggest challenge” of this still young season.
Get out to Bill Corry Stadium for the last non-region game of the 2013 season. Kickoff will be at 7:30.