MORGAN — These Morgan Trojans sure know how to make things interesting.
This fall, Morgan (3-1, 4-3) has been involved in a number of thrilling victories and heart-stopping defeats.
Their 24-21 homecoming victory over Bear River (2-2, 4-3) Friday night was certainly another nail-biter.
It took a huge interception by Morgan defensive back Kade Carrigan with nine seconds left to secure victory for the home team. Carrigan's game-saving interception came as Bear River was driving down field and well into Morgan territory.
It all left Trojan head coach Kovi Christiansen feeling unusually spent.
"It has been a long week, and that was an emotionally draining game," said Christiansen. "But I am happy for these guys. They deserved it."
Last week's game against Region 11-leading Stansbury ended in a tough home loss for the Trojans as the Stallions converted a two-point conversion in overtime to win 29-28. The Trojans also had close games with South Summit and Wasatch earlier in the year.
Bear River, behind the stellar play of quarterback Kyle Zundel, kept pressure on the Trojans all game Friday. After being down at the half by three points, 10-7, the Bears came out strong in the third quarter. On their second possession of the half, Zundel hit Carson Gibbs with a big 48-yard scoring pass up the left side line to take the lead at 14-10.
The Trojans would find their groove on their next possession, starting with a huge kickoff return by senior defensive back Matt Murdock. Murdock's 43-yard return would give the Trojans the ball near midfield. Senior running back Lantzen Toomer capped the seven-play drive with an 18-yard scamper into the end zone, giving the Trojans back the lead at 17-14.
Toomer had a big night for the Trojans with six catches for 114 yards to go along with 59 rushing yards. The sure-handed senior captain also handled punt and kickoff returns for his squad.
"We threw the ball well tonight, and the line blocked well," said Toomer. "We ran a lot of the same pass plays over the middle tonight. Last week was a tough loss, but I thought we played our best game against Stansbury, so we were able to come out tonight strong and confident after halftime."
Coach Christiansen praised his do-everything senior as a "gamer."
"Toomer has awesome hands, and he makes plays when we need them. I almost like him better as a receiver, but he is good at both running and receiving."
Morgan senior running back/linebacker Ben Holland took a sneaky inside handoff from quarterback Ben Saunders 45 yards to paydirt with just under seven minutes to give the Trojans a bit of a cushion at 24-14.
But the Bears defense would not quit, holding the Trojans on fourth down with 2:41 left to play and giving Zundel a shot at putting some pressure on the Trojans.
Zundel did just that, scoring on a 4-yard run up the middle following a huge pass play to Garrett Fronk, with the catch and run covering 63 yards.
With plenty of time left on the clock, the Bears tried an onside kick. The kick was unsucessful, but the tough-hitting Bears defense held Morgan on fourth down again with 1:17 left on the clock.
The Bears worked the ball down to the Trojans' 30-yard line with 20 seconds to play, and that's when Carrigan came up with his big interception, returning it up the left sideline to the Bears' 30-yard line. With only nine ticks left on the clock, Saunders was able to take a knee and run out the clock.
Carrigan, who almost never comes off the field for the Trojans, has played most of the season injured. He was further hurt on the run-back of his interception. A Morgan assistant coach literally hoisted Carrigan upon his shoulder and carried him off the field as time expired.
The Bears host Grantsville in next week's game, while the Trojans visit Tooele.
Bill Bateman is a husband and father of 5 daughters--he spends most of his time at McKay-Dee hospital in Nuclear Medicine. He also writes the occasional article for the home-town Morgan County News.