STERLING – There are some pretty impressive aspects if you look deep into the box score of Sterling’s nail-biting victory over Geneseo on Friday.
They conrolled the ball 30 minutes, 31 seconds to Geneseo’s 17:29. At one point, both teams having had eight possession of the ball, they’d run 50 plays to Geneseo’s 26 and led 21-14.
The Golden Warriors went 4-for-5 on fourth-down conversions. OK, so they went 2-for-12 on third, but Geneseo was an even-more-abysmal 1-for-9.
But the beauty of this column is I get to give you the goods that, if you weren’t at the game, you couldn’t glean by reading the box score or the Cliff Notes version of this instant classic on Page B6.
In what Tanner Morse called the most emotional game of his life, he was as ninja-like as ever. He repeatedly created something – oftentimes something huge – out of nothing, and mesmerized defensive players he left grabbing air.
He was awesome. Coach Jon Schlemmer corroborated that.
But he got a ton of help from his friends.
During the preseason, I wrote about Cornell Hartz’s role in the sudden run-pass balanced Sterling offense, and mentioned how he’d have to help keep Morse on his feet. Sports writer Ty Reynolds scoffed, as I’m sure others did.
But that tidbit came to glorious fruition when Hartz threw the mother of all blocks to set up the score that put Sterling up 13-0. The waterbug-like Hartz is a lot of fun to watch, turns out not just because of his phyical talent. Picking up Cameron Panicucci and buying Morse and extra second and a half was a high-end football IQ play. And a gutty one, too.
Speak of mothers of all stuffs and guttiness, let’s talk about the gut check the Warriors got. They had a chance to go up three scores, but missed a field goal. Then Geneseo scored.
At the half, Sterling led 13-7, but that proverbial 14-point swing made it feel like they were trailing.
Then the Warriors fumbled on the second play of the second half. Then Geneseo scored. Then it started to rain frogs and the field was covered with synthetic-turf eating locusts.
OK, that went a little too far. But the turning of the tide was of cataclysmic proportions, within the world of football.
So often, that’s what sports comes down to – not what happens to you, but what you do about it. And the mighty Warriors answered.
The rest of the game was defined by second efforts and unthinkable physical acts (see: Logan Wharff somehow, some way, catching the ball in the final minute of the third quarter.)
Friday could be a defining moment for a team that’s been looking for a signature victory since finding a way to win in Moline in Week 1.
Afterward, blood dripped from Morse’s ear during postgame interviews. Curiously enough, after he carried the ball 28 times, winged it 10 times and ran a handful of country miles, that blood was drawn during a postgame celebration.
Fair enough. The Warriors have oodles of reasons to celebrate. But for crying out loud, guys, be careful. Don’t be irresponsible. Don’t be dumb. And stop drawing blood from each other, if possible.
Because Monday morning, it’s back to the weight room. Only Dixon and Ottawa stand between Sterling and a fifth straight conference crown.