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High school football: Trio of triple-digit rushers powers Morgan past Union

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 6:30 p.m. MDT

Morgan's Matt Murdock slips a tackle by a Union Cougar. (Gary Weitzeil/Studio One Images) Morgan's Matt Murdock slips a tackle by a Union Cougar. (Gary Weitzeil/Studio One Images)

Football coaches often speak of how they want to have a "balanced" attack by their teams. A good rush game to complement their passing, or a pass now and then to help open up a dominant rushing attack.

But what if your ground game generates three runners with 100-yard games and more than 450 yards total?

That's precisely what happened Friday night in chilly Morgan, where the Trojans piled up 523 yards of total offense in a dominating 47-13 win over visiting Union.

"To be honest, I'd rather throw on every down," said Morgan quarterback Ben Saunders. "But we have great backs and a great line, and if the run is working, I'm happy for my teammates to get the touchdowns."

Union's Nic Smith is gang-tackled by a host of Trojans (Gary Weitzeil/Studio One Images) Union's Nic Smith is gang-tackled by a host of Trojans (Gary Weitzeil/Studio One Images)

His teammates got a lot of touchdowns on this night. Saunders, who had five touchdown passes last week, only needed to throw the ball 11 times Friday night for 65 yards. On the other hand, behind triple-digit rushers Ben Holland (128 yards), Matt Murdock (115 yards) and Kade Carrigan (112 yards), the Trojans piled up 458 rushing yards on the evening.

"We've got great backs," said Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen. "You have to utilize what you have. I'm also really pleased with the line and their progress compared to where we started the season."

Like last week, Morgan started strong. Starting at their own 44-yard line, the Trojans executed six straight running plays, the last of which was a 3-yard TD run by Carrigan straight up the middle. After the extra point by Dallen Calder, who made 6 of 8 PAT's on the night, the Trojans led 7-0 just a minute and 45 seconds into the game.

Union's first drive moved into Morgan territory and then sputtered. The Cougars turned the ball over on downs at the Trojan 30. On the first play from scrimmage, Morgan's Murdock raced down the field for an apparent 70-yard touchdown, but the play was called back on a questionable holding penalty. Morgan then drove the ball down to the Cougars' 5-yard line, where Carrigan again punched in a TD on an identical play to his first.

Union again turned the ball over on downs, and Morgan got the ball at its own 28. Again, on the first play from scrimmage, Holland took a handoff from Saunders, broke several tackles, eluded several more defenders, and found himself in the end zone 72 yards later as the first quarter expired. Morgan led 20-0 after the first period.

After a ton of distractions stemming from the Union coach suspending his entire team two weeks ago, and the ensuing media coverage, it might have been easy for the Cougars to bow out of this game. However, the Cougars managed to put together a touchdown drive of their own. Nic Smith scored on a 5-yard run, and with the Tye Winterton PAT, Union cut Morgan's lead to 20-7.

The comeback bid was short-lived, as Murdock added two more touchdowns and Carrigan tallied one in the second quarter. By halftime, Morgan led 40-7, and the competitive phase of the game was largely over.

Although Union never gave up in the second half, Morgan's defense figured out how to stop the short passing game that had been fairly effective in the first half. "I was happy with Caleb (Schliehty)," said Christiansen. "He knocked down a couple of balls, picked one off, and had a sack."

The two teams played to a virtual draw in the second half, and Union was faced with a long bus ride home on the losing end of a 47-13 score.

Since a 13-12 loss to South Summit on Aug. 30, Morgan is averaging 48.2 points per game. "I like how our team is coming together," concluded Christiansen.

So does Ben Saunders.

Probably.

Chris VanCampen is a graduate of the University of Utah and Santa Clara Law School and practices law in Heber, is a father of four, an avid fly-fisherman, and announcer of many Morgan High School sports events. Email him at: cvcinutah@gmail.com.

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