By Robbie Schwartz
Although their secondary seemed to struggle against the air attack of the Model Blue Devils, the Morgan County Bulldogs owe much of their 8-10 win last Friday night to them.
It was a game that included a momentum turning blackout and a lot of yellow flags and interceptions as the Dogs pitted their running game against the passing attack of Model in the first round of the state playoffs last Friday night.
Morgan County hit the ground running to start thing off against Model. Mario McGuire returned the opening kickoff to the Bulldogs’ eight-yard line and the Morgan County offense took the field. Fullback Cameron Kiplinger picked up 38 yards on the first drive, but it was wingback Richard Chamberlain’s run that brought the Bulldog faithfuls to their feet as it fell shy of the game’s first score. Kiplinger finished the drive off and Morgan County gained a 7-0 advantage.
Model struggled on their next drive with quarterback Steven Powers coughing up the ball on the Blue Devils’ second play of the game. The fumble was recovered by Morgan County linebacker Dusty Sidwell and proved a costly turnover for Model.
After a completion from the Bulldog quarterback Chace Crowley to McGuire for 15 yards. Chamberlin didn’t come up a yard shy on his second run of the game as he crossed the goal line on a 25-yard run and Morgan County held a 14-0 lead.
“Our offense line had the best game blocking wise,” Offensive Coordinator Bill Malone said. “They were simulating our count and that made us jump a couple of times. But overall I think that the kids did well.”
It looked as though the game had the early makings of a blowout for Morgan County. The momentum clearly was swinging in the Bulldogs’ favor but then the lights went out.
With 7:44 left in the first quarter, a blackout left the players, fans and the crowd in the dark for over 20 minutes. When the lights came back on Model found their sense of confidence and showed the crowd why they made the playoffs. Powers completed all four of his passing attempts on the drive for 55 yards and rushed for the Blue Devils’ first score of the game to make the score 14-7.
Morgan County’s offense struggled for the rest of the half, punting on their remaining two possessions of the half. Model’s offense wouldn’t struggle however; with Powers finding his receivers open for 53 yards on their third drive of the game that eventually resulted in a field goal. As the first half came to a close Morgan County held a 14-10 lead, but Model had the momentum.
“Anytime you get into the playoffs there is a reason for any given team being there,” Head Coach Kenny Moore said. “We struggled after the lights went out. Had they not gone off our kids were really in a groove and I think they would have closed the deal by halftime. To Model’s credit they came back and battled.”
That momentum carried over to the beginning of the second half when Bulldog kicker Billy McIntyre prevented what could have been a Model touchdown on the kickoff to start the half. After giving up over 100 yards in the air in the first half, Morgan County’s secondary stepped things up. On the second play of the half, McGuire ripped a completed pass from the hands of Model receiver and the Bulldog offense started their first drive of the second half on their own 35-yard line.
The Morgan County offense was left wondering what had to happen to get a pass interference call when two instances went unnoticed by the referees and the Dogs were unable to take advantage of the turnover.
But they would have another chance as linebacker Dillon Bowers intercepted Powers’ first pass of the ensuring drive. Penalties on both sides of the ball, including a much awaited pass interference call against the Blue Devils in the end zone aided the Dogs resulting in an offensive drive as they found themselves facing a fourth-and-one on Model’s two-yard line. The decision to go for it paid off as Kiplinger took it across the goal line for his second score of the game and a 21-10 lead for the Dogs.
Morgan County’s offense took the field in the waning moments of the third quarter after the defense held strong on fourth down, forcing a turnover on down. A big completion on third down by Crowley to tight end Sidwell put Morgan County on Model’s 17-yard line. From there Chamberlain picked up his second rushing score of the game rushing score of the game to round out the Bulldog’s scoring.
A win no longer seemed in doubt for Morgan County but the Bulldog defense remained solid. With just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter Model looked poised to score against the Dogs when McGuire broke up a pass that ended up in the hands of team mate Emanuel Drake that all but sealed the deal for Morgan County.
“The second half our kids came out with a purpose defensively and played well,” Defensive Coordinator Allen Crowley said. “Our secondary stepped up and made some big plays for us. I am really excited for our kids to advance to the next round.”
Morgan County will return to action on Legion Field and Bill Corry Stadium this Friday night to take on Greater Atlanta Christian. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.