By Alvin Richardson
Morgan County’s 2020 campaign got off to a rocky start with a 5-2 loss to old rival Putnam County at Al Reaves Field last Friday night. The baseball-like score (see separate article on the rarity of this result) came as a result of two bad snaps that turned into safeties and a War Eagle field goal in overtime for the winning points. Other than that both defensive units stymied the opposing offenses and the result was that Putnam had 58 yards of total offense on 62 plays and Morgan finished with 96 passing yards and 77 rushing for a total of 173.
Both teams had their problems on offense. Morgan’s came in the form of turnovers. The Bulldogs finished with eight turnovers, five of which were interceptions. Putnam’s issues were with penalties. The War Eagles were penalized twelve times for 70 yards. Both teams suffered offensive setbacks when several snaps to the quarterback went awry and resulted in big losses.
Bulldog head coach Bill Malone had reasons to be both pleased and displeased. Following the game he noted, “I was very pleased with the spirit and tenacity our defense played with. Coach Bell’s (Brett) group was a lot of fun to watch.” The coach also had praise for his kickers and added, “It’s really good to have a quality punter this year. Freshman Nolan Harris did a great job flipping the field.” Malone also said, “I’m excited to have Nathan Camacho handling the kickoffs, PAT’s and field goals. Both those guys are going to help us this year.”
Malone was not as happy about the offensive performance and said, “I was shocked at our poor offensive performance. There’s no excuse, given how our defense played, for such a lack of production.”
Though the offensive highlights were few for Morgan the defense played an outstanding game. Jamarrion Lewis, Jacob Pritchett, Elijah Reynolds and Criston Foster led the defensive effort. Lewis had three tackles, seven assists and three tackles for loss. Pritchett finished with two tackles, three assists and six quarterback pressures. Reynolds notched six tackles, two assists and an interception and Foster came through with six tackles and three tackles for loss.
Putnam got on the board first at the 9:36 mark of the first quarter. The War Eagles had punted Morgan in a hole at the one yard line and on second down a high snap went over the end line for a safety to give Putnam a 2-0 lead. That lead stood until the fourth quarter. With 5:24 left in the contest Morgan had punted Putnam into a hole at their five and the Bulldog defense did not yield a yard on the ensuing three plays. On fourth down Putnam suffered a low snap on the punt attempt that went over the back line and the game was knotted at 2-2.
Over the final five minutes of regulation both defensive teams continued to dominate the action and the game went to overtime. Morgan had the first possession (high school overtime rules put the ball at the 15 yard line) and the Bulldogs faced a third and 11 from the 16 when a pass was tipped and Putnam intercepted to end Morgan’s possession. The War Eagles gained one yard on three running plays and faced fourth and nine from the 14 but their 31 yard field goal was good for the winning points.
There were some key plays along the way. The biggest one came with 6:31 left in the second quarter. Morgan’s D.J. Smith flipped a swing pass out to Kobridgette Lumpkin in the right flat and Lumpkin avoided two tacklers and outran the Putnam secondary for what looked to be a Morgan County touchdown but the play was negated by a holding penalty.
The other key play came with 4:40 left in the third quarter. Morgan had fumbled at their own 13 yard line to give Putnam a prime scoring opportunity. On first down the War Eagles fumbled the ball forward and Jacob Pritchett pounced on it in the end zone giving the ball back to the Bulldogs.
Morgan County travels to Monroe Area for their second game of the season this Friday night. Game time is 7:30.