WEEK 2: Playing catch-up, the Class 1A, DII’s 20th-ranked Morgan Eagles come up short in their delayed season opener against the 17th-ranked Oglesby Tigers, 36-31
MORGAN – After claiming the first-ever mythical Bosque County Six-Man Football championship by capturing the 2020 District 12-1A, Division II title, the 20th-ranked Morgan Eagles were forced to put their plans to go back-to-back on hold due to Covid protocols shutting down the school for two weeks. In the process, the Eagles lost their second scrimmage and season opener at Penelope Aug. 26.
Finding themselves playing catch-up in more ways than one, the Eagles (0-1) fell behind early then came up short as the 17th-ranked Olgesby Tigers (2-0) held off a fourth quarter rally to secure an exciting 36-31 victory Friday night in THE SPORTS BUZZ Game of the Week.
“I thought we showed an excellent display of strength and toughness to stay them in the game,” Morgan football head coach Edward Aviles said. “I was hoping we could have played our game against Penelope, but that wasn’t the case.
“Covid really affected us last year, and it affected our momentum going into playoffs for football and basketball. We just tried to pick up where we left off and do the best we could. Like always, we adjust to the situations and do the best we can and reach our goals by getting better every week.”
With Oglesby enjoying a comfortable 28-8 with 7:53 remaining in the third quarter, the Eagles responded with 16 unanswered points to get back into the game. Sparked by a 44-yard kickoff return by senior Manuel Muniz, junior Adrian Vera-Rico cashed in for Morgan on a one-yard touchdown run followed by junior Kason Sims splitting the uprights for the two-point kick.
Then with 16.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Sims connected with Vera-Rico for a tackle-breaking 44-yard scoring strike and Sims nailed the two-pointer again to pull the Eagles within four points, 28-24.
But Olgesby responded with senior Blake Thompson turned a fumble in the backfield into a 37-yard gain to the Morgan 13-yard-line. Two plays later, Thompson capitalized by taking a pitch and scoring from five yards out and junior Brodie Fisher kicked the two-pointer to rebuild the Tiger lead, 36-24, with 7:49 remaining in the game.
Promptly marching down the field, the Eagles came right back with a sustained scoring drive as Sims connected with freshman EJ Aviles in the back of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown strike, then settled for a one-point conversion pass to sophomore Mark Garcia with 4:46 on the clock.
Sims finished with eight completions in 16 passing attempts for 131 yards and three touchdowns, hooking up with Vera-Rico for two scores. Vera-Rico led receivers with seven receptions for 132 yards. But the Oglesby defense limited Morgan to only 33 yards rushing on 10 carries, and the Eagles were unable to complete the comeback late in the fourth quarter.
“We had some injuries in our offensive backfield that stall our comeback chances in the end,” Aviles said. “And we had too many penalties for that comeback to be possible.”
But the Eagle defense gave Morgan a chance to rally to get back in the game with two goal line stands. Aviles led the Eagles with 15 tackles, followed by Vera-Rico with 11 tackles and forced fumble, as well as Sims with eight tackles and a caused fumble.
“We managed to stop the Tigers twice when our backs were pinned against the end zone,” Aviles said. “I was proud of how the Eagles refused to give up.”
With seven returning lettermen that includes five offensive and five defense starters, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine picked Morgan to repeat as district champions. Morgan’s talented group of offensive weapons also includes senior running back Gerardo Monroy, junior running back Dathen Davenport and junior wide receiver Keylan Watts.
“I am looking forward to seeing our team grow and mesh from last season,” Aviles said. “All the players coming back gained a lot of experience from last season. It should be fun to watch this group use that experience to put ourselves in a position to be successful.”
After the district faced unprecedented disruption from Covid and injuries last season, Aviles expects a hard-fought battle in 2021 in the five-team, all-Bosque County district featuring 2020 runner-up Walnut Springs, 2019 district champion Cranfills Gap, perennial powerhouse Iredell and up-and-coming Kopperl.
“Our district should be tougher this season,” Aviles said. “Kopperl will be young, Iredell will be young with numbers, Cranfills Gap will have two very good running backs, and Walnut Springs will bring back a young team that gained some good experience from last season. It should be fun to watch our district play out.”
The last time all five Bosque County six-man schools played in the same district, none of the current head coaches were around to see it. Although the Bosque County rivals competed in the same district in 2002, the previous league also included outsiders Jonesboro and Oglesby. And make no mistake, Morgan wants to make it two in a row.
“Keeping ourselves healthy, making necessary adjustments with personnel, and making plays when we need to will be important to us having a successful season,” Aviles said. “I think our experience and players being able to move around will allow us to be the mix to make the playoffs.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.