CHELSEA – Adam Henley could feel the momentum shifting to his team’s favor.
Late in the third quarter with Chelsea trailing by seven, the sophomore gave the Green Dragons possession at the Morrison 18-yard line after completing a fake-punt pass for 21 yards to Carson Lawhorn. It was a fitting conversion, coming about six minutes after the Wildcats scored on a fourth-down play.
“When I did that, everybody got really excited,” Henley said. “And I hoped that really made everyone excited to go make another touchdown.”
The elation didn’t last long, though, as the 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back quickly found himself in a roller coaster of emotions.
Two plays after his momentous pass, Henley lost control of an option pitch from quarterback Chase Smith, and Morrison star player Jalen Powell scooped up the fumble and raced 86 yards to the end zone. That was the beginning of Chelsea’s downfall as the Wildcats went on to claim a 49-20 victory in District A-6 action Thursday night.
The Green Dragons (4-2, 1-1 A-6) were held scoreless in the second half while managing only 64 yards after a 241-yard first half.
“A ball ends up on the ground that they pick up and take for a touchdown, and that really flipped the momentum,” Chelsea coach Matt Hagebusch said. “From there, we were scrambling to try to get back in it and just didn’t capitalize. The score was pretty lopsided, but the game wasn’t. They capitalized on those mistakes, and that was the difference.”
Unfortunately for the Green Dragons, those mistakes were crushing.
Smith was intercepted by Rocky Woods and Tyler Voss the next two drives, with the latter resulting in a 38-yard pick-six for the final score of the game at the 6:16 mark of the fourth quarter. Voss turned the first interception into points as well, capping the ensuing drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:00 remaining.
“We started pressing a little bit and made some mistakes, and they capitalized on our mistakes,” Hagebusch said. “That comes from experience on their part; Morrison is a proud program, and coach (Cory) Bales has had those guys coached up well for a long, long time. They’ve got a senior group that has been through a lot of tough battles. To be on that high from the fake punt and then a couple of plays later, bam, they pick up a fumble and take it however far for a touchdown, it can escalate quickly if you’re not careful.”
“We stood toe-to-toe, and we blinked first tonight.”
Voss finished with 120 yards rushing and two scores while also catching three passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. His 16-yard scoring reception from Powell gave Morrison (2-3, 1-0) a 21-20 lead with 19 seconds remaining until halftime, ending a stretch of 5:57 where 35 points were scored between the teams.
Powell was even more impressive for the Wildcats, completing 12 of 19 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in addition to rushing for 106 yards on 12 carries, scoring on runs of 24 and 13 yards in the first half.
Voss and Powell accounted for all but 10 of Morrison’s 366 yards.
Although the second half put a damper on his overall performance, Smith helped keep the Green Dragons in the game in the first half.
Just moments after the defense forced a turnover on downs at the 3-yard line, the junior quarterback scrambled 95 yards to the Wildcat 2. A false start the next play moved Chelsea back a bit, but Cash Ramsey, who finished with 49 yards rushing on 14 carries, scored the first touchdown of the night on a 7-yard run shortly thereafter.
Then in the second quarter, Smith scored on a 19-yard keeper to give the Green Dragons a 12-8 lead with 4:50 until halftime. He followed that with a 47-yard touchdown strike to Henley on the next possession at the 1:13 mark.
In all, Smith rushed for 125 yards on 11 carries and threw for 94 yards on 7-of-14 passing.
“Every time we have a situation like this, you hope it’s experience you learn from,” Hagebusch said of Smith’s outing. “He’s a first-year starter at quarterback, so there’s a lot of learning experiences for him. He won’t get down. He’ll keep working hard, watch some film and learn from his mistakes and get better. He’s a team captain, and he’ll set that example just by how he responds to it.”
Chelsea looks to secure its fifth win of the season when it travels to Caney Valley (3-1, 0-1) next week.
“This game we lost, but we can’t let that affect us,” Henley said. “We have Caney Valley next week, and we just gotta focus on that, be 1-0 on the next and just keep going.”