STERLING – Morrison vs. Newman. It conjures up images of classic high school football games. Saturday’s alumni game between the two wasn’t far off from classic status.
Morrison outlasted Newman 14-8, despite dominating the state sheet (367 yards to 73).
Newman’s defense held the Mustangs scoreless four times inside the Comets’ 10-yard line. But Morrison’s first-quarter touchdowns and tenacious defense were just enough at a packed Roscoe Eades Stadium.
The weather made it quite a football-like night, with temperatures in the 60s.
Nathan Vandermyde, a 2008 Morrison graduate, did a bit of everything in his Division III football career at North Central College in Naperville. He played quarterback, tight end, defensive end and safety. Saturday, he looked right at home at quarterback.
Vandermyde piled up 194 passing yards and two touchdowns in the first half, as Morrison took a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
On his first possession, Vandermyde quickly got to work, hitting Devin Mouw (Class of 2009) for 9 yards. Two plays later, Vandermyde found 2005 grad Marcus Hill for 10 yards.
Two plays after a 7-yard run by Vandermyde’s older brother, Nicholas (2007), Nathan had consecutive runs of 7 and 4 yards. On second-and-6 from the Newman 21, he Vandermyde connected with 2010 grad Kyle Janssen for a touchdown. Nicholas added the two-pointer, and it was 8-0 with 7:15 left in the opening quarter.
“Nathan’s throws were really on. All we had to do was run under the ball and catch it,” said Janssen, who totaled 106 yards, 76 receiving and 32 rushing. It was his first football game since Morrison completed its 14-0 state championship in 2009.
Late in the first quarter, 2001 grad Jason Buikema ran under another Nathan Vandermyde throw and went for a 61-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but it was 14-0 with 1:06 left in the quarter.
“We came out firing. We knew we wanted to come out and throw the ball against them,” said Nathan Vandermyde, a math teacher and the newly appointed freshman football coach at Fulton High School. “We scripted our first 10 plays, and seven of them were passes.”
Newman, which ran its first four plays in Morrison territory but none the rest of the way, got a much-needed jolt from 32-year-old 1999 grad Andrew Papoccia, who busted an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:20 left in the first half.
“I barely crossed that goal line. My legs were locking up on me those last 20 yards,” said Papoccia, who lives in Italy and coaches football there. “It just opened up, and I got some good blocks along the way. I had just enough to get across the goal line.”
Papoccia was unable to play alongside brother Brett, a 1997 grad, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury in preparation for the game.
Newman’s defense kept the Comets in the game the rest of the way.
The Mustangs were stopped at the 1 as time ran out in the first half. On their first three possessions of the second half, it was more of the same. Morrison drove down the field, only to come up empty.
On their first possession of the second half, the Mustangs reached the Newman 7 before turning the ball over on downs. On its next possesion, Morrison moved to the Comets’ 3 before being denied. And again, the Mustangs got to the Newman 1 before the Comets staved them off.
Star of the game: Nathan Vandermyde, Morrison, 194 passing yards, 2 TDs, all in 1st half
Key performers: Andrew Papoccia, Newman, 85-yard punt return TD, 45 rushing yards; Kyle Janssen, Morrison, 108 total yards, TD catch; Morrison defense, held Newman to 5 first downs and 73 total yards