By Caroline Schlabach
The Morgan County Middle School Bulldogs used a big-play offense and stingy defense to defeat Carver Middle School 22-10 in their season opener at Bill Corry Stadium on Wednesday.
Bulldogs linebacker Jack Harper opened the scoring by scooping up a fumble and returning it 39 yards for a touchdown with 3:38 left in the first quarter. Bulldogs quarterback D.J. Smith scored on a two-point conversion run to take an 8-0 lead.
On the first play of the second quarter, Smith threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Thompson. Caleb Keener’s extra-point kick made it 15-0.
“The game went really well in the first half,” Morgan County Middle School coach Aaron Paul said. “We were much sharper offensively than we were in our scrimmage game against Henderson.”
Carver Middle School’s only points of the half came on a safety. The Bulldogs snapped the ball through the end zone on a punt attemptfor two points.
Morgan County answered quickly, however, as Tre Hawkins ran 55 yards for a touchdown with 1:12 left in the first half. Keener’s point-after kick gave the Bulldogs a 22-2 lead.
Carver added a one-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 22-10 late in the third quarter, but Morgan County’s defense shut them down the rest of the way.
“In the second half, we had some mental mistakes that led to us looking sloppy on offense at times,” Paul said. “Overall, it was a big improvement in our execution on offense, special teams, and utilizing our running game more effectively.”
Paul said linebacker Jacere Cooper was one of the big reasons for Morgan County’s success on defense.
“Cooper played fantastic at linebacker for us throughout the game,” Paul said. “He was pressuring the quarterback constantly and always in the correct place, either to make the tackle or get an assist.”
The Bulldogs continue their season at Monticello Middle School on Sept. 5.
“We need to play four quarters total,” Paul said. “We have quite a few guys that play on offense, defense and special teams, and we need to play hard for the entire game, not just a half.”