MORGAN — This game should be mandatory.
The football coaches for the Class 3A Morgan Trojans and the Class 2A South Summit Wildcats need to get together and do whatever is necessary to make sure they play each other in football on a yearly basis because in recent years, the games haven’t lacked excitement.
The Trojans followed up last year’s six-point overtime victory over the Wildcats at South Summit with a thrilling, down-to-the-wire 34-27 win in Morgan Friday night.
Morgan junior defensive back Kade Carrigan’s interception on the 10-yard line with no time left on the clock preserved the Morgan win.
"That was wild. I feel like I played in that one," said Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen, who appeared physically and emotionally spent after this one. "They (the Wildcats) are fantastic. I don't know if there is another 2A team to compare with them. They are awesome."
It was a tale of two halves with the Wildcats taking a 7-0 halftime lead in a somewhat sloppy offensive battle. Both squads had struggles with ball management with numerous fumbles, bad pitches and dropped passes, but the Wildcats struck pay dirt first with a beautiful 66-yard pass from junior quarterback Caden Christenson to senior running back Porter Santos at the 9:52 mark of the second quarter. The Ross Marchant extra point made it 7-0 Wildcats.
The Wildcats (1-1) were actually a little unlucky in not scoring another touchdown or two as several passes fell of the fingertips of a couple of wide open Wildcat receivers in the half.
The Trojans (1-1) came out of halftime and finally put some points on the board.
After senior defensive end Cameron Skinner recovered a fumble on South Summit’s second play of the half, the Trojans marched down field under the direction of senior quarterback K.T. Tibbitts for only their first sustained drive of the game. Carrigan scored on a one-yard run to make it 7-7 at the 7:05 mark of the third quarter.
Then the fireworks really began.
The Trojans, behind the offensive line blocking of junior big man Kyle Stapley, scored three more touchdowns in the next four minutes, highlighted by a 49-yard scamper down the left sideline by senior running back Joe Kippen with 30 seconds left in the quarter.
South Summit also scored a touchdown in the middle of the Trojan scores with a 70-yard pass from Christenson to senior running back Hayden Packard.
The Trojans held a seemingly safe 28-14 at the end of three quarters.
The Wildcats, behind the running of Santos, Packard and Christenson, refused to fold, and early in the fourth quarter scored again, this time on a 13-yard halfback pass from Santos to senior running back Porter Larsen to get themselves right back in the game.
The Trojans never quite corral Santos, the speedy back who plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame, but Morgan caught a break when Santos went down with an apparent MCL strain at the 9:15 mark of the fourth quarter after a 12-yard pick up. Santos did not return to the game.
"I hope he's OK,” said Christiansen. "He's out here calling for the ball, and we're telling our guys No. 2 is going to run the ball and he just runs through us. That's the kind of kid every coach wants."
The Wildcats forced the Trojans to go three-and-out on their next possession, and immediately marched down field and scored on a four-yard quarterback keeper by Christenson to make it a 28-27 game. But instead of kicking the PAT to tie it up, the Wildcats went for the two-point conversion and the lead.
Christenson rolled to his right in a bit of a slow developing play, which Trojan junior defender Ben Saunders read perfectly and he stepped in front of the receiver for a big interception to give the Trojans some much-needed life.
Saunders, who was splitting time at quarterback with Tibbitts early in the game, was moved to the defensive side of the ball for good after halftime, and it paid off.
"We went with K.T. at quarterback, and Ben's a great athlete, so we threw him out there on the corner, and he makes one of the biggest plays of the night,” said Christiansen. "(It was) a great play by him. He could have been sulking, but he stepped it up on the other side of the ball. I was proud of him."
Carrigan scored his second TD of the night on a three-yard run up the middle with 39 seconds left in the game, but the point after was blocked giving the Trojans a 34-27 lead.
Morgan left the Wildcats just enough time to try to tie the game up, and they nearly did.
A pass interference penalty called on a Trojan defender with 10 seconds left moved the ball to the Trojan 35-yard line. On South Summit’s second try for the endzone with only five seconds left in the game, Carrigan stepped in front of Christenson's pass to seal the victory for the Trojans.
Saunders was quick to credit his offensive line for the victory.
"In the first half we were pumped up, but we were not executing our blocks. In the second half, we came out and showed some heart," Saunders said. "Those four touchdowns in the third quarter were huge for us. The O-line, it was all them. I give the game to them."
Playing on both the offensive and defensive lines, Stapley was a monster all game, but gave Tibbitts and the Trojan running backs credit for pulling out the game.
Carrigan lead the Trojans with 131 all-purpose yards, while Santos lead the Wildcats with 183 all-purpose yards before his injury.
Morgan is back in action next Friday, while the Wildcats host American Leadership.
Bill Bateman is a husband and father of five daughters. He spends most of his time at McKay-Dee hospital in nuclear medicine.