STERLING – The last thing Newman wanted against Morrison was anything resembling a track meet.
That’s what the Comets got, however, and with Keegan Anderson clad in red and white and some room to roam, it was advantage Mustangs.
Anderson scored on two long touchdown passes, and a stifling defense bottled up Newman all night. The result was an 18-6 Morrison victory before a big crowd Saturday night at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
Morrison (5-0, 3-0 Three Rivers Rock) snapped a seven-game losing streak in what was once one of the premier small-school rivalries in this part of the state.
“Everyone knows Newman’s got us the last 7 years,” Anderson said. “Just to know we finally ended that right there makes everyone feel great, but to us, it was just another game. Both teams battled it out with all their hearts, and the outcome was the outcome.”
The Mustangs accumulated 253 yards of total offense, and more than half of them came on two plays. On Morrison’s second play from scrimmage, Anderson, a top sprinter for the school’s track team, caught a 15-yard pass from Nathan Helms on a crossing route. He cut over to the sideline and out-ran another speedy player, Newman cornerback Connor McBride, to the end zone for a 73-yard TD and a 6-0 lead.
Morrison began the second half in similar fashion. On a first down from the 37, Anderson caught a pass in the flat that he took 63 yards up the sideline to the house and a 12-3 lead with 10:13 left in the third quarter.
“Being able to run fast helps,” Anderson said, “but without the right blocks, without the people not jumping the count, without everyone doing their job, I’m not going to get anywhere. I’m just thankful for my teammates.”
Outside of those two big gainers to Anderson, the Mustangs managed just 107 yards in eight other drives.
“We said we couldn’t give up big plays, and we gave up two,” Newman coach Brandon Kreczmer said. “Hats off to them. They executed. Other than that, I thought we played pretty well defensively, but those two big plays, we just gave up two big touchdowns. They’re a really good team.”
Newman (4-1, 2-1), meanwhile, had trouble moving the ball all night against a swift, tough Morrison defense. The Comets managed just 99 rushing yards on 39 carries, had to settle for two Nate Ahlers field goals of 21 and 27 yards on trips deep into the red zone, and fumbled away a chance inside the Morrison 10, after Anderson’s second TD.
Newman managed a mere 160 yards of total offense, as the Mustangs continually clogged normally open rush lanes. McBride and Kye O’Brien were the Comets’ leading ballcarriers, each with just 36 yards.
The linebacking crew of Nathan Mickley (15 tackles, including 7 solos), Isaak Shetler (13 tackles, 7 solos) and Hunter Newman (10 tackles, 6 solos, 1 sack) was everywhere; free safety Nick Allen had nine tackles, including four solos; defensive tackle Cooper Darby had five solos and one tackle for loss; and Brenden Stearns sealed off the win with a late interception.
“We do a lot of pursuit drills getting to the ball,” Morrison coach Ryan Oetting said. “We want 11 guys in the camera frame when the camera shuts off. The kids have really bought into that. They’re flying around and having fun.”
Mickley credited the defensive line with occupying blockers.
“They fought, they were physical, and it just freed everything up for the linebackers to make tackles,” Mickley said.
“They fly around on defense and coach Oetting does a good job with them,” Kreczmer added. “They just fly to the ball and we couldn’t block them. Part of it was us not using our technique, but most of it goes to them. They were flying around, doing what they were supposed to do.”
The second of Ahlers’ two field goals got Newman to within 12-6 with :37.6 remaining in the third quarter, only to see the Mustangs put their lone sustained drive together for a clinching touchdown.
Staritng from its own 41, Morrison moved 59 yards in 10 plays (all runs), capped by a 1-yard, fourth-down plunge by Riley Wilkens with 7:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Newman’s next possession consisted of two incompletions and a Hunter Newman sack of Comet QB Jacob Ackman for a 17-yard loss, effectively ending much hope for a comeback.
Star of the game: Keegan Anderson, Morrison, 3 receptions, 133 yards, 2 TDs
Key performers: Nathan Mickley, Morrison, 15 tackles; Nate Ahlers, Newman, 2 FGs
Up next: Bureau Valley at Morrison; Newman at Rockridge, both 7 p.m. Friday