MORRISON – Ryan Oetting had a play in mind to start Saturday’s 1A second-round game against Kirkland Hiawatha at Bud Cole Field.
When quarterback Nate Helms faked a handoff and stepped back to throw, Oetting’s play very quickly turned into a touchdown thanks to the arm of Helms and the speedy legs of Keegan Anderson.
The pair connected on a 65-yard touchdown on a play-action pass that set the tone in a 44-12 win.
“We talked about throwing that pass all week, and it really came to fruition,” Oetting said. “Nate maybe underthrew Keegan a bit, but that’s not hard to do. Keegan has such speed, that it’s not hard for him to get out ahead of a throw. He made an adjustment on the ball and made a good run. That really set the tone, and was settling for our sideline.”
“I think it helped a lot with momentum,” Anderson said. “After that we felt like we had a start, and all we had to do was finish the rest of the game.”
Morrison advances to the quarterfinals where it will play at Annawan-Wethersfield, which beat Forreston 30-26 on Saturday night.
Hiawatha (9-2), which was playing its final 11-man football game – it will join the 8-man field next fall – responded with a series of pass plays on offense that quickly moved the ball down the field.
Quarterback Matt Korb completed all five of his pass attempts on the drive, connecting with Ty Kilcullen three times, and Austin Sunderlage and Josue Rubio once each.
The drive was finished off by a 9-yard touchdown run by Kyle Thompson.
“I don’t think anyone that watched the game can say that we rolled over easy,” Hiawatha coach Jason Keneway said. “We’re a pretty tough 19 guys against a much bigger team, school, and program that has a ton of history. These guys have a lot of heart, and they fought until the very end. I can’t be more proud of them.”
Morrison’s defense, which has been stout all season, responded by shutting down the Hiawatha offense much of the rest of the way, allowing only more score, a Thompson touchdown late in the second quarter.
“You got to realize that they are in the playoffs, too, and they are going to come out and fight just the same you are,” Morrison defensive lineman and fullback Riley Wilkens said. “We just had to bear down, and our defensive line had to come at them.”
“We played a little Cover 4 defensively, which we haven’t done a ton this year,” Oetting said. “We tried a little bracketing of No. 7 [Kilcullen]. They have some nice athletes. No. 34 [Thompson], No. 7, and No. 33 [Sunderlage] is a nice-sized kid that played well. We tried to change the back end of our defense and slanted our line a little more to the strength. I don’t know exactly what helped – we’ll have to watch film to identify that – but we certainly have to cut down on the mistakes."
On the first play of Morrison’s ensuing drive, Anderson took the handoff 38 yards to the Hiawatha 32-yard line.
“He’s fast,” Keneway said. “They have to have a track team here, and he must be awesome on it. He’s super fast. He beat us on the first play and throughout the day.”
For the record, Anderson has run on the Mustangs' state-champion 4x800-meter relay team the past 2 years.
Two plays later, Wilkens scored on a 7-yard run to put Morrison up 14-6. Wilkens scored again after a defensive stop by Morrison (11-0), this time on an 8-yard run that put Morrison up 22-6. Wilkens finished with 73 yards on 13 carries.
Hunter Newman made it 30-6 on a 19-yard touchdown run with 5:51 left in the first half. Newman, Wilkens, and Anderson were a three-headed monster in the Mustangs backfield who amassed the bulk of the team’s 394 rushing yards. Newman had 133 yards on 16 carries, and Anderson led the way with 157 yards.
“I think everyone did really good today,” Anderson said. “We went out there and got it done. Despite all the ups and downs and the penalties, I think we went out there and played as a team.”
Hiawatha’s second touchdown was set up by a 26-yard completion to Rubio, but it appeared to be an interception by Ryan Kennedy. The referee ruled that the players shared possession, and Hiawatha kept possession at the Morrison 6-yard line. Thompson, who rushed for 79 yards on 20 carries, scored two plays later to make it 30-12.
“We put two scores on them, and I think we are only the second team to do that,” Keneway said. “For 19 guys, we were already doing more than people expected. They played their tails off, and I am super proud of them.”
Wilkens scored his third touchdown on Morrison’s opening drive of the second half. Morrison gained possession on an interception by Nick Allen.
Allen scored the game’s final touchdown with 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run.
1A playoffs, second round
Morrison 44, Hiawatha 12
Star of the game: Keegan Anderson, Morrison, 13 carries, 157 yards, 1 reception, 65 yards, 1 receiving touchdown.
Key performers: Kyle Thompson, Hiawatha, 20 carries, 79 yards, 2 touchdowns; Ty Kilcullen, Hiawatha, 8 receptions, 59 yards; Hunter Newman, 16 carries, 133 yards, 1 touchdown; Riley Wilkens, Morrison, 79 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns.
Up next: 2A quarterfinals, Morrison at Forreston or Annawan-Wethersfield, TBA