Toppled by Titans
Dogs fall for first time this season
The Morgan County Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season this week against the North Oconee Titans, 7-35.
Knowing the aggressive nature of North Oconee’s fans, especially at their homecoming, Head Coach Bill Malone had the team warm up at the Oconee County Recreation Department, well away from North Oconee’s campus.
“We wanted to avoid distractions, and we did,” explained Coach Malone.
When the Bulldogs arrived at North Oconee, the atmosphere on the field was already electric.
“You could feel on the sideline that there was a little more energy emanating from both benches, as well as both huddles,” said Coach Malone.
Morgan County got the ball to begin the first half of the game, but North Oconee scored the first touchdown of the night with a 53-yard touchdown run shortly before the end of the first quarter.
Trailing 0-7, the Bulldogs received the kickoff from the Titans, and executed a very odd-looking play, which Malone calls the “Muddle Huddle,” designed to deceive North Oconee’s special teams squad.
Michael Gray caught the kick off, and, immediately after the catch, he and the rest of the members of the Morgan County special teams crew came together in a huddle. After a split-second, all of the players ran from the huddle, as if they all had the ball nestled in their arms.
Marquis Benton, who really had the ball, was able to make it to the 33-yard line before the deception was uncovered.
Despite the trick return, Morgan County had to punt the ball away shortly after the beginning of the second quarter of gameplay.
The Bulldogs’ defense did a good job of holding the Titans during their next drive. Bailey Ross broke up a pass play with a huge tackle on the second down of the drive.
Morgan County’s next drive started with a promising halfback pass by Michael Gray to Stewart Spence, who was able to get the ball to the Titans’ 35-yard line.
Despite the field position, Morgan County wasn’t able to drive the ball far before having to punt again.
The last Titan drive of the first half lead to their second touchdown, coming to 0-14 with a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Morgan County got into good field position for their next drive, thanks to a spectacular kickoff return by Gray, who was able to get all the way to the Titans’ 32-yard line by following blocks through a maze of North Oconee defenders.
Unfortunately, Trent Hawk was sacked a couple of plays later for a loss of 12-yards, which left the Bulldogs 18 yards to go on the third down of the drive. They couldn’t overcome the deficit before time ran out on the first half of the game.
North Oconee received the ball at the beginning of the second half with a 0-14 lead.
They scored during their first drive of the half with a 51-yard touchdown run. They were able to score once more before the end of the third quarter, putting the Bulldogs behind 0-28.
Three plays into the fourth quarter, Carter Shultz was able to intercept a pass for Morgan County, which began the only successful drive for the night for the Bulldogs. After advancing the ball to their own 31-yard line, Morgan County scored on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Gray.
With a little less than 9 minutes left in the last quarter, the score was 7-28.
The Bulldogs allowed one more Titan touchdown before the end of the game, which ended with a score of 7-35, the first loss of the season for Morgan County.
Immediately after the game, Coach Malone was considering how to use the loss to better the team.
“Sometimes in life you just get whipped,” said Malone, “and how you respond to that whipping will determine a lot about your character and how you plan on reacting for the rest of your life.”
Malone admits that the team did not play as well as it has in previous games.
“What it boils down to on defense is that we missed more tackles that we’ve ever missed in a game this year. And you can’t have that happen in a game against a team with speed like North Oconee’s got.”
“Offensively, we not only didn’t block the interior, we didn’t block the perimeter as well as we have.”
With the season far from over, Coach Malone feels good about their chances for the rest of the season.
“I am optimistically hopeful that we’ll be able to win out and be 9-1.”
“We’ve just got to get up the next day and go back to work.”
This Friday at 7:30, the Bulldogs will go to work on the Elbert County Blue Devils at Bill Corry Stadium for the sixth game of the season.
Printed in the October 11, 2012