By Nick Nunn staff writer
“They did just what you feared they would be able to do.”
That’s what Morgan County High School (MCHS) Head Football Coach Bill Malone about had to say about Jackson County’s drive in the last 45 seconds of the game last Friday night.
A last-second field goal by the Panthers took the game out of the hands of the Bulldogs, who lost the game 35-38. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they do a great job offensively at Jackson County,” continued Coach Malone.
“They did a great job of managing the clock at the end.” However, Morgan County’s season-ending loss to Jackson County was as much a product of mistakes the Dogs made early on in the game as it was a product of the Panthers’ offense. “I never worried all week about Jackson County,” said Coach Malone during an interview Monday afternoon.
Malone said that his first “glimmer of worry” came in the first quarter of the game when Morgan County failed to get on the board after their first drive got them to Jackson County’s 14-yard line. Then, when the Dogs were held three yards from scoring during their second drive, Malone’s anxiety about the team’s ability to fight back in the face of bad fortune began to rise.
Coach Malone and the rest of the coaching staff continued to take some chances during the game to make sure they got the most out of every opportunity. “Coach Robbins called one of his better games,” said Malone about his offensive coordinator, John Robbins.
During the second half, however, everything turned around for the Dogs, who were able to make up a 19-point deficit and tie the game first at 28-28 and then 35-35. “Our kids came out in the second half with a different attitude and executed how they should have all year long,” said Malone about the Bulldogs’ performance late in the game.
The change in attitude, according to Malone, was something like an epiphany of maturity for the team, who realized that they couldn’t wait around for the other team to make a mistake so they could take advantage; they realized that they had to create an advantage on their own and be able to “take what is yours.”
Malone said that feeling like you have to wait for the other team to make a mistake is “the mark of an immature team.” “If we could have won, there’s no telling how far we could have gone this year,” said Malone.
With the final game over and the athletes back to being just students, Malone says that he has heard many expressing pride about how the game ended with them playing as hard as they could. Although Malone acknowledges their sense of pride as healthy, he also wants them to understand what could have been if they had come to that level of maturity earlier. “We’re taking steps,” said Malone.