MORRIS — It's a pretty simple formula. Win on offense, defense and special teams, and you should win a football game.
Coal City did just that Friday night, getting 244 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Daniel Jezik, two interception returns for scores on defense - one by Austin Pullara and one by Connor Burch - and a kickoff return for a touchdown by Tyson Spencer en route to a 48-33 thrashing of neighboring rival Morris.
Morris actually got the scoring started early, as quarterback Zach Reddinger broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run on the game's third play from scrimmage for a 7-0 Morris lead. The Redskins' lead, though, was short-lived.
On Coal City's second play from scrimmage, Jezik went through a gaping hole on the right side of the line and raced untouched for a 65-yard touchdown and the game was tied with just 1:40 having run off the clock.
"We have been thinking about this game since about the time the last game we played against them was over," Jezik said. "The offensive line did a good job of blocking all night. I couldn't have done anything without them.
"We are a grind it out team. We get excited about a 3-4 yard gain. When we break a big one, it's like 10 times more excitement and we just get momentum off that."
On the first play of Morris' ensuing drive, Pullara stepped in front of a Reddinger pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, giving the Coalers a 14-7 lead with 10:04 to play in the first quarter.
Morris countered with an 18-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard TD pass from Reddinger to Cole Laurie, to tie the game at 14 with 2:05 left in the first.
The defenses settled in and controlled the second quarter, and the game was tied at 14 at halftime.
The Coalers received the second-half kickoff, and Tyson Spencer broke through the middle of the Morris coverage team and went 85 yards for a touchdown. The kick was blocked, but Coal City led 20-14.
Again, Morris answered, scoring on a 1-yard plunge by Brandon Phelps. The Coalers blocked the extra-point kick and the score was tied at 20 with 8:47 to play in the third.
After Morris forced a punt, the Redskins took over on their own 21. Reddinger went out for a few plays with an ankle injury and sophomore quarterback Zach Romak, under pressure from Pullara, was intercepted by Connor Burch, who returned the pick 44 yards for a touchdown and a 27-20 lead.
Reddinger returned and led Morris on another scoring drive, this one capped by a seven-yard TD pass to Laurie on 4th-and-goal. The kick was wide and Coal City maintained a 27-26 lead.
On the ensuing Coal City drive, Jezik appeared to be stopped at the line, but spun out of a tackle and broke loose on a 76-yard touchdown run to put the Coalers ahead, 34-26 with just under a minute left in the third. He added his third touchdown midway through the fourth quarter and Morris scored in the final 30 seconds to provide the final margin.
"We have a lot of great athletes," Coal City coach Dan Hutchings said. "We scored on offense, defense and special teams. When you do that, you know it's a total team effort, and that's exactly what tonight was. Morris is a good team and we knew we would have to play well to beat them.
"Our offensive line was outstanding, our defense made plays when it had to. Just a total team win."
"They beat us tonight," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "We did some good things, but we made a lot of mistakes that hurt us, too. One game isn't going to define our season. We just have to learn from this game and get better."