By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer
The streets of Monticello were alive with energy last Friday night just minutes before the first game of the season – a matchup between the Morgan County Bulldogs and the Monticello Purple Hurricanes – was set to begin.
The sidewalks in the heart of Jasper County were full of people headed in a single direction. Cars circled the square in the hopes of finding one of the few remaining parking spots.
Football fever had hit in Monticello, and Morgan County was there to ride the high, floating right over the Monticello Hurricanes.
Excitement was in the air on both sides, and each team found itself with the final hopes of an unblemished year.
Soon, one team will have won and one will have lost.
Monticello set up to receive the ball to begin the first quarter of the game, and the Bulldogs’ Andrew Bishop kicked the ball into Monticello’s endzone for an automatic touchback.
On the third play of Monticello’s opening drive, Sam Couch picked a Hurricane pass out of the air and returned it more than 35 yards for the first Bulldog touchdown of the game. After the extra point, Morgan County led 7-0 with less than a minute elapsed on the game clock.
After the Dogs kept Monticello in place during their next drive, Morgan County was able to push down the field thanks to two 15-plus-yard passes by Trent Hawk to Justice Chapman, but their drive ended on the Monticello 17-yard line with a turnover on downs.
Again, the Dogs stopped the Hurricanes from converting a single first down on their next offensive.
Morgan County made quick work of their next drive; Hawk’s pass to Trey Chapman brought the Dogs 53 yards downfield to within one yard of a touchdown. Hawk pushed into the endzone a couple of plays later for Morgan County’s second touchdown of the night with little more than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
Tez Mathis recovered a Monticello fumble early in the second quarter, but the Dogs’ next drive ended with an interception thrown by Hawk.
Morgan County’s next drive also ended with an intercepted pass, this time by Brantley Frost.
Frost threw his second interception of the night during the next Morgan County possession, but Trey Chapman was able to show that the Dogs can get as good as they give by intercepting a Monticello pass attempt during their next drive.
By halftime, the score was still 14-0, and the Dogs prepared to return a kickoff to begin the second quarter.
After trading short possessions, Morgan County put together a march down the field, with Marquis Benton getting the chance to really show the Hurricanes what he is made of.
Benton’s 12-yard and 23-yard carries put the Dogs right on the line, before he pushed himself the remaining two yards into the endzone for the third touchdown of the night.
Monticello took possession with only a little more than half of the third quarter remaining, but the Hurricanes had to punt on the fourth play.
Couch returned the punt to the Hurricanes’ 24-yard line, leaping over the last Monticello defenders to squeeze another few yards out of the return.
After four plays of the drive, Andre Peterson’s 4-yard carry into the endzone and the extra point gave Morgan County a 28-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Monticello broke through the Morgan County line on their next drive with a 79-yard rush into the endzone to put the Hurricanes on the board for the first time in the game.
A fourth Morgan County interception gave Monticello one last offensive in the third quarter, but a sack by Benton created a turnover on downs just before the buzzer announced the last quarter.
Morgan County scored for the last time against Monticello with a 10-yard carry by Couch after a nine-play drive.
The final drives of the game showed little progress for either team; Morgan County controlled the last play of the game, ending on a knee with the score 35-7.
The final score of 35-7 was a single point higher on each side than the score of last year’s competition between these two teams, which ended 34-6.
Looking back at the footage of the game, Head Coach Bill Malone began to see the “scores” of mistakes that were made by the Bulldogs during the game but noted that they were still able to “dictate to Monticello what they were able to do.”
This Friday, the Bulldogs take on the Greene County Tigers at home starting at 7:30 for their second of three non-region games this season.