By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
With 45 seconds left in Friday’s game at Field, Rootstown senior running back Dawson Morgan had already carried the ball 42 times.
The Rovers needed him for one more.
Tied, 7-7 and on the Falcons’ 22-yard line, Morgan took the handoff on an iso-power run off the right side of his phenomenal offensive line. After clearing the line of scrimmage at a full head of steam, Morgan bounced his run outside the hash and out-sprinted everyone on the field to the right corner of the end zone for the score.
Morgan’s last carry looked like his first carry.
Speed, power, determination.
The touchdown became the game-winner for the Rovers, who improved to 3-0 on the season with a hard-fought 14-7 victory over the host Falcons at Kenneth Lohr Stadium in Brimfield.
Morgan finished the game with 43 carries and 268 yards, scoring both of Rootstown’s touchdowns. He also had two receptions for a modest eight yards, but combine it with his rushing total, Morgan accounted for 276 of the Rovers’ 316 yards in the game (87 percent).
Morgan now has 799 yards rushing through three games (266 yards per game average).
Rootstown head coach Chris Knopick says to appreciate Morgan’s success, you also must appreciate when it actually started.
“Dawson started working toward this back in January,” Knopick said. “What he has done is a credit to him and his offensive line. Dawson worked harder than any kid we had during the off-season, and he has become one of our strongest players this year. He has prepared himself for games like these”
Friday’s game was physical and tough in the trenches. The two teams combined for only 36 yards passing.
And, ironically, it was a critical passing play from Rootstown that converted a critical third down — on an 18-yard reception by Tristan McKibben from Ryan Piscitani — just before Morgan scored the go-ahead TD.
For Field’s final possession, it was set up to receive the ball in good field position after an unsportsmanlike penalty was flagged against Rootstown during Morgan’s score. The penalty was assessed to the kickoff.
The Falcons had the ball with 35 seconds to play from their own 45 and only one timeout. On their first play, Cohen Schlaubach pulled in the game-sealing interception to complete the Rovers’ comeback.
Field (0-3) jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead when they were able to turn a turnover into points.
On a Rootstown screen attempt, Falcons’ defensive lineman Walter Siegfried tipped the pass and redirected it toward the middle of the line, where Rocco D’Angelo was standing. D’Angelo pulled in the interception to set up the Falcons just outside the red zone.
Soon after, Victor Brown took a quick-pitch around the right end, using one side-step move to break free and race 34 yards for Field’s first touchdown of the season. L.J. Riley kicked the extra point and the Falcons owned a 7-0 lead at the 3:19 mark of the opening quarter.
After a scoreless second quarter, Rootstown finally tied the game at 7-7 with 4:55 showing on the third-quarter clock. A long 11-play drive for the Rovers, which featured Morgan on all 11 carries, was finished when he plunged over the goal line from 3 yards out. Blake Mulally’s point-after tied the score 7-7 to set the stage for the late-game heroics for the Rovers.
“We played a great game. Our defense played great,” Field head coach Matt Furino said. “When you only give up 14 points, you should win the game. Our offense needs to play better.”
The Falcons’ offense received a welcomed boost to the lineup on Friday, with the return of junior running back Drexal McAmis.
McAmis had sat out the team’s first two games after a weight-lifting injury about 10 days prior to the season-opener at Mogadore.
McAmis’ return shifted the Falcons’ offense to a Wildcat, which the junior runner used to produce 101 yards on 23 carries.
Brown, a sophomore, totaled 55 yards on nine rushes.
“Drexal was cleared just a couple of days ago, then he comes into this game and plays the way he did. It just shows you how special of a player he is,” Furino said.
Of McAmis’ 23 carries, only two went for more than 10 yards, with Rootstown’s defense doing a good job of wrapping up the 6-foot-4, 230-pound back that is known to frequently break out of tackles.
“We keep four linebackers in constant rotation, and tonight I thought Dominic Duvall, Brian Youngblood, Kyle Kuharich and Tyler Paulus all did a great job,” Knopick said. “They are all wrestlers and they know how to maintain good leverage, then they attack with tenacity to the football.”