By Alvin Richardson
Friday the 13th turned out to be pretty unlucky for the Burke County Bears. Burke, a perennial powerhouse, was nearly a two touchdown favorite over Morgan County but no one told the Bulldogs that. Playing at the luxurious Bear Den in Waynesboro, Morgan County got a signature win when they broke out of the gate quickly to post a 14-0 halftime lead and then got another jolt from Javier Laguin who ran the second half kickoff back for a touchdown to make it 21-0. Although Burke rallied to get within 28-21 with 6:30 left in the contest the Bulldogs didn’t falter and answered with two closing scores to post a 41-21 Region 4AAA win and assure themselves of a post-season berth.
A well pleased Coach Bill Malone said, “That was the happiest locker room I can remember in a long time and that’s one of the things that coaches enjoy the most – seeing the kids rewarded for all their hard work.” Malone continued, “We played our most complete game of the season and it goes a long way toward giving us some momentum at a good time.” Malone also noted, “Our running game and defense were the linchpins to this win but our passing game got a big boost when Al Edwards got back from injury.”
Morgan was led on offense by senior running back Kobridgette Hyman who went over the 1,000 yard mark (1,083) for the season. Hyman carried 21 times for 219 yards and scored four times. Pratt Spivey and Al Edwards ran point for the passing game. Spivey completed 11 of 15 passes for 93 yards and Edwards was on the receiving end of nine of those for 66 yards. Morgan’s entire offensive line made up of Gavyn Lewis, Jarrell Brown, Donovan Caswell, Jonathan Nash, Criston Foster along with tight ends Antavious Elder and Key Malone and fullback Braxton Harris proved to be the blocking workhorses as they cleared the way for 327 rushing yards and 420 total yards on the night.
The Bulldogs defensive unit, which is in the top 10 in Class AAA (points allowed), shut out the Bears over quarters one and two. Burke got their 21 points on three long plays in the second half but the Morgan defenders stubbornly refused to allow the Bears to put together sustained drives. Leading the way for MCHS were Criston Foster, Key Malone, Antavious Elder, Jacere Cooper, William Jeffries and Elijah Reynolds.
The Morgan special teams got into the act as well. Jacere Cooper blocked a punt that was recovered in the end zone by Jamarrion Lewis, Nathan Camacho converted five of six PAT’s and punter Nolan Harris only had to punt once but it was a beauty of 54 yards that pinned Burke at the five yard line in the fourth quarter.
Both squads put together solid drives to open the night but neither could find the end zone. Late in the first quarter Morgan’s defense forced a three and out and the Bears had to punt from their 21. On that play Jacere Cooper broke through and blocked the kick and Jamarrion Lewis curled around it in the end zone for Morgan County’s first score. Nathan Camacho’s PAT was good and the Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead at the 1:05 mark of the first quarter.
Burke got to the Morgan County 43 on the next series but an incomplete pass on fourth down ended the possession. The Bulldogs then drove to Burke’s 28 and missed a fourth down conversion by inches and the ball went back over. The Bears drove to mid-field and punted to the Morgan 21. From there the Bulldogs put together a nine play, 79 yard drive that ended when Kobridgette Hyman bounced outside and scooted 25 yards for six points. Camacho was true again on the extra point to make it 14-0 with just 56 seconds left in the half.
In the third quarter a track meet broke out.
Javier Laguin gathered in the second half kickoff, started right and then cut back against the grain. He found an opening and the diminutive senior went all the way for an 86 yard touchdown to give Morgan a 21-0 lead. It looked like the Bulldogs were in control of the game at that point but Burke’s championship pedigree was put on display for the next quarter. The Bear’s immediately drove to the Morgan 38 and then hit a long pass for their first points of the night to make it 21-7 with 8:55 left in the third period. The Bulldogs retaliated quickly to regain their three touchdown edge when Hyman went right up the gut on first down and broke free for a 68 yard score and a 28-7 lead. Burke returned the favor just a minute later when they broke a 61 yard scoring run to make it 28-14. In just over four minutes the two teams combined for 28 points and there was still a long way to go.
Both offenses put together multiple first downs on their ensuing possessions but neither resulted in points and the third quarter ended with Morgan still leading 28-14. With 10:50 left in the game Burke County was backed up at their five but managed to dig out of the hole with their ground game and connected on a crossing route that got them nearly to mid-field. Two plays later they found an open receiver down the sideline for a touchdown and with 6:30 left in the contest had cut the lead to 28-21.
The next possession for Morgan was critical. With momentum on the Bear’s sideline Morgan County needed to run some clock. They did better than that. Jacere Cooper found a big hole up the middle and broke into the secondary for 40 yards to the Burke 36 yard line. After Morgan was penalized for a procedure infraction Kobridgette Hyman took the handoff, bounced outside and went all the way to the end zone to give Morgan a 35-21 cushion with 4:57 left in the game.
On the ensuing possession, Burke wound up with a fourth and nine at their 28 and were forced to go for it but a pass fell incomplete and Morgan took over. Four plays later Hyman put the icing on the cake when he went 10 yards for his fourth touchdown of the night to give the Bulldogs a 41-21 region win.
Morgan County is currently in 3rd place in Region 4AAA with a record of 3-2 and will host Harlem in the regular season finale Friday night at Bill Corry Stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m.