STERLING – After spending the first half shaking his head, Newman football coach Mike Papoccia spent the second half shaking his players’ hands and handing out compliments.
After playing to a scoreless tie in the first half, the Comets blitzed the Morrison Mustangs with four touchdowns in the first 9:26 of the third quarter en route to a 42-0 victory.
“Hey, I remember you guys now!” Papoccia told his offense as it came off the field following Jake Snow’s second touchdown run of the third quarter. “Let’s keep pushing and finish strong!”
Snow had 159 of his game-high 171 rushing yards in the third period, and Dillan Heffelfinger added a pair of TD runs and 55 of his 56 yards in the quarter. Elliot Jensen ran for two scores in the fourth quarter, the first 5 seconds in and the second with 3:49 to play to start the running clock.
All that came after a first half that saw both teams record more punting yardage than offense. Morrison led 88-78 in total yardage and 110-92 in punting yardage. Both teams saw their one promising drive of the half snuffed out by interceptions deep in opponents’ territory.
“The coaches were calm at halftime, not really on us too much,” Heffelfinger said. “We knew what we needed to do better. We were struggling, and I don’t want to say we felt panic, but we were almost in shock.”
The Mustangs (2-2, 1-1 Three Rivers North) were the ones in shock about a dozen game-minutes later. Snow’s 37-yard run on the fourth play of the second half set up his 5-yard scoring plunge less than 3 minutes into the third quarter, then his 61-yard run on the first play following Morrison’s three-and-out set up Heffelfinger’s 7-yard TD run with 6:49 left in the third.
On the Mustangs’ second play of the next series, Brady Rude smoked backup quarterback Mason Sitzmore and forced a fumble which Mac Olson pounced on; Heffelfinger ran in from 19 yards out down the right sideline on Newman’s second play.
After another Mustang three-and-out – Morrison didn’t have a single first down and gained just 13 total yards in the second half – Snow’s 31-yard TD run was wiped out by an illegal block downfield. But the very next play, he scored from 13 yards for a 28-0 lead with 2:34 still to play in the third quarter.
“The second half was all thanks to our offensive line,” Snow said. “They came out tough and aggressive after halftime and started getting the push and opening holes for us. Our defense set us up in the first half and we didn’t take advantage; they set us up in the second half, too, and we made the most of it.”
On third down of the ensuing Morrison possession, Rude picked off Sitzmore’s pass and returned it to the Mustang 22-yard line. Jensen scored three plays later, on the first snap of the fourth quarter, to make it 35-0.
After another three-play Morrison series, Newman’s backups marched 61 yards in 11 plays, with Jensen’s 14-yard scoring scamper capping the scoring.
“Attrition is the word I would use,” Morrison coach Cory Bielema said. “We thought their depth would be a factor, and that’s what we saw in the second half. Those 2- and 3-yard gains from the first half were turning into 4- and 5-yard gains after halftime, and they started to break some big plays on us.”
Newman 42, Morrison 0
Star of the game: Jake Snow, Newman, 171 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Key performers: Dillan Heffelfinger, Newman, 56 rushing yards, 2 TDs, sack; Elliot Jensen, Newman, 40 rushing yards, 2 TDs; Austin Shoup, Morrison, 47 rushing yards; Joey Brackemyer, Morrison, 40 passing yards, 22 rushing yards
Up next: Morrison at Amboy & Newman at Fulton, 7:30 p.m. Friday