By Alvin Richardson
Morgan County moved the ball up and down the field last Friday night and posted 389 yards to just 120 for the Purple Hurricanes but it was all for naught. In the end Monroe made the big plays and Morgan made too many miscues. As a result Monroe Area came away with a hard-fought 13-9 win. The Canes touchdowns came on a 28 yard corner route late in the half and a 60 yard fumble return after a bad snap on a punt. Monroe had three offensive plays that totaled 102 yards and they gained but 18 yards on the other 23 snaps from scrimmage.
Morgan County’s defense had another stellar outing. They were led by Noah Brown and Jacob Pritchett. Brown had three tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception. Pritchett finished with three tackles, two assists, one tackle for loss and two sacks. The Bulldogs limited Monroe to just one yard rushing on 17 attempts and six pass completions for 119 yards. On the night Monroe Area ran just 26 plays from scrimmage while Morgan ran 73. The Bulldogs piled up 19 first downs to just three for the Canes and Monroe managed only a single first down over the final 24 minutes.
On offense Kobridgette Lumpkin and D.J. Smith led the way. Lumpkin pounded out 144 yards on 26 carries and caught three passes for 63 yards. Smith, in his first varsity start at quarterback, finished with 79 yards on 25 carries with one touchdown and was eight of 16 passing for 139 yards.
So after looking at the stats this was a tough loss.
Coach Bill Malone agreed and said, “To lose that game was a head-scratcher for sure but when you have that many turnovers (3) and one of them is turned into instant points it can be hard to overcome.” But on the bright side Morgan’s offense looked like a different unit than the one that played at Putnam. Malone noted, “We certainly got better this week but we have to clean up the turnovers. I thought our conditioning was a factor in giving us a chance at the end. Coach Brunson (Bob) has done a great job in that area and of course for the second straight week our defense had a strong outing and gave us an opportunity to win.”
The Bulldogs broke on top early in the contest. On the first play from scrimmage Morgan’s senior defensive back Noah Brown picked off a pass and returned it mid-field. From there Morgan ground out four first downs on the running of Kobridgette Lumpkin and quarterback D.J. Smith. Lumpkin had 20 yards and Smith added 18 on the drive as Morgan punched it down to the Hurricane 12 yard line. With 6:08 left in the opening quarter Nathan Camacho split the uprights on a 29 yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Morgan’s Jacob Pritchett came up with a sack on Monroe’s ensuing possession and the Canes had to punt after three plays. The Bulldogs managed a first down but had to punt and Nolan Harris pinned them at the 15. Monroe Area came up with one of their big plays on a 39 yard pass to flip the field but had to punt and Morgan took over at their 14. From there the Dogs went on another long drive that consumed nearly eight minutes on the clock and covered 50 yards but a fumble at the Cane’s 36 yard line ended the opportunity.
The momentum swung to Monroe’s side of the field on the next two plays. A nifty throwback screen covered 37 yards and on the next play the Canes hit a corner route for six points and a 7-3 lead with 3:52 left in the half.
On the ensuing possession it looked like the Bulldogs might retaliate. On first down from the Morgan 40 D.J. Smith found Ashton Cooper on a 35 yard pass completion when Cooper went up over the Monroe defensive backs to haul it in but the Dogs couldn’t make it pay off. On the next play Morgan’s second key fumble of the night ended the possession and the teams went to intermission with Monroe leading 7-3.
The game-changer came midway through the third quarter. Morgan County had punched out two first downs to reach the Monroe 24. A two yard loss and a procedure penalty forced a decision and the Dogs decided to try to punt the Canes into a hole but the snap was low and the Hurricanes picked it up and raced 60 yards for their second score of the night. The PAT was no good but Monroe led 13-3 with 7:30 left in the third quarter.
Once again Morgan went on a long drive that consumed over four minutes and covered 59 yards but at the Monroe 15 Morgan fumbled to short-circuit a scoring chance and dim the Bulldog’s hopes. The teams swapped punts from there and the Dogs took possession with 9:33 left in the game. They put on another impressive ground drive and this time they finished it off. Starting at their 20 Morgan went 15 plays and on fourth and goal from the two D.J. Smith found the end zone. The PAT was blocked to make it 13-9 with 4:13 left but the Dogs had a chance.
Morgan County’s defense, which had played solidly all night long, did not surrender a yard on the ensuing possession and the Bulldogs got the ball back with 2:28 left and three timeouts in their pocket. On third and 13 from the Morgan 39 D.J. Smith scrambled and fired a bullet over the middle to Denver Laughlin who made a sliding snag at the Monroe 40. Kobridgette Lumpkin carried two times and gained 15 yards to the Hurricane 25 but that was as close as Morgan would get. The Dogs faced fourth and 12 from the 27 and a deep pass down the left side was beautifully thrown but Monroe’s defensive back stripped it away at the last moment as Morgan fell just short.