MORRISON – The Riverdale Rams, as undermanned as they are, made an early statement Friday at Bud Cole Field. The Morrison Mustangs had the answer.
Morrison responded to a first-quarter Rams touchdown with TDs on its next three possessions, taking control for a 25-6 Big Rivers win at home to snap a two-game losing streak.
The Mustangs (4-3, 4-3) wanted to establish the run in this one, and did so both inside and outside. Fullback Andrew Connelly rushed for 119 yards in relief of usual starter Brock Deter, and wingback Danny Willis added 115 yards on the ground.
But Morrison found a nice balance through the air. Matt Wilkens threw for 182 yards on 12-for-18 passing, and Willis caught five passes for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Mustangs outgained the Rams 450-136 in total yardage.
“We’ve gotten our passing game going the last couple of weeks, so we wanted to get back to our running game tonight,” Morrison coach Cory Bielema said. “We want to get to the point where our offense has a strong balance of run and pass, and I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
But Bielema credited his defense with turning the tide, setting a tone and letting the offense feed off of it.
After Riverdale had a long opening drive stall, it blocked a Morrison punt and recovered inside the 10-yard line. The Rams (0-7, 0-7) turned that into a touchdown, taking a 6-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
“They had a lot of momentum after that blocked punt,” Morrison senior Danny Willis said. “We knew we had to come back, and we started it with tougher defense. We got a few stops, and got the ball back to our offense to go to work.”
Mission accomplished. The Mustangs tied the score right away with a seven-play, 57-yard drive capped by Alex Volckmann’s 1-yard TD plunge, then got the ball back after forcing a Riverdale punt.
Morrison went on a 12-play, 80-yard march, a drive that featured a pair of 5-yard procedure penalties and a fourth-and-10 conversion; Wilkens hit Willis on a 4-yard TD pass with 5:49 left in the quarter.
After another Riverdale punt came another Morrison scoring drive. It covered 77 yards on 10 plays, capped by a 15-yard Wilkens-to-Willis TD pass for an 18-6 lead with 29.8 seconds left before halftime.
“The line stepped up and made some big holes, and we started hitting them harder,” said Connelly. “Riverdale came at us hard, but we started pounding it up the middle and to the outside, went down and scored a couple of times and really got after them.”
Riverdale blocked another Morrison punt in the first possession of the second half, but this one was recovered by Willis behind the line of scrimmage and run 27 yards … but it was fourth-and-28, and the Rams took over on downs at their own 8.
However, the Mustangs D got another stop, and the offense all but put the game away with an eight-play, 44-yard drive that Wilkens finished off with a 1-yard TD sneak. The teams each turned the ball over on downs, then Morrison’s Ryan Mayberry picked off a Wyatt Klavon pass to allow the Mustangs to run all but 1:13 off the clock and ice the victory.
“We had a good game plan and executed well early,” Riverdale coach Nick Schroder said, “but it ws a game of attrition, and we just didn’t have the bodies to battle back after they started grinding it out on us in the second and third quarters.”
Morrison 25, Riverdale 6
Star of the game: Matt Wilkens, Morrison, 12-for-18 passing, 182 yards, 2 TDs, rushing TD
Key performers: Danny Willis, Morrison, 115 rushing yards, 77 receiving yards, 2 TD catches; Andrew Connelly, Morrison, 119 rushing yards; Terry White, Riverdale, 110 rushing yards
Up next: Morrison at Fulton, 7:30 p.m. Friday