By Mike Drake
The Morristown Colonials opened their 2013 football season Sunday afternoon in West Orange against Seton Hall Prep with the goal of getting back to playing what Head Coach Chris Hull calls “Tough Morristown Football.”
They did just that, waging an aggressive, tenacious, hard-hitting defensive battle against a well-coached and motivated Pirates squad. Although the Colonials came up short, losing 13-7, they appear to have bounced back from last year’s disappointing 2-7 season that resulted in more than one 40-point loss.
Coach Hull expected the improvement.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win, but the guys have worked very hard throughout the off-season and it really showed today on the field,” he said after the contest.
“They played a very physical game and they have vastly improved both fundamentally and mentally.”
In the first quarter, the Colonials charged out of the gate, taking the opening kickoff and driving deep into Pirates territory on nine plays. Junior quarterback Dallas McCall threw the ball with confidence and accuracy, completing two passes for 16- and 13 yards. The Pirates finally stopped the drive on their own 27 yard line.
After quickly forcing the Pirates to punt, the Colonials again marched down the field, thanks to pinpoint passing by McCall, a 35-yard reception by senior Nate Brown, and fleet-footed running by Jordan Powell.
Morristown was moving the ball at will before stalling at the Seton Hall Prep 20 yard line. Ethan Bolson then missed wide left with a 37-yard field goal attempt. But the Colonials were moving the ball consistently.
It was at this point in the game that the Pirates offense came alive. Sam Jones caught three passes from quarterback Zach Keller, as the Pirates converted twice on clutch third down plays.
MJ Mughetto eventually scored on a sprint around the left end and the Pirates took a 7-0 lead at the 5:40 mark in the first half. The Pirates were able to move the ball again in the final minutes of the first half before Colonials junior safety Jordan Powell made an acrobatic interception in the end zone.
After taking the second half kickoff, the Pirates were on move again before Morristown senior captain Joey Murphy stretched all of his 6’2” frame to leap high for an interception.
The Pirates defense had effectively bottled up the Colonials and Morristown quickly punted back to the Pirates. This time the Pirates put together an impressive drive of 68 yards. Julian Spain scored on a five-yard run off tackle. After missing the extra point, the Pirates led 13-0.
Pirates head coach John Finnegan credited his defensive coordinator, Mark Smith, for the great job the Pirates were doing containing the Colonials’ offense.
The Colonials never gave up and despite only gaining one first down in the second half, they almost came back. Andrew Benvenuto made the play of the game for the Colonials when he blocked a Pirates punt with 1:48 left on the clock. Colonials senior Justin Northern jumped on the ball in the end zone, and Morristown trailed, 13-7.
But the Pirates’ Donald Stewart was able to put the game away when he fell on the Colonials’ onsides kick.
Although the scoreboard registered a loss, the visitors knew they had improved considerably from last year. The 2013 Colonials are back to playing “Morristown Football,” and should be a tough team to contend with for the rest of the season.
Next up: Roxbury at 7 pm on Friday, another road game. The Colonials will seek to avenge last year’s 47-7 pasting.
Mike Drake is a member of the MHS Football Boosters Club and the parent of two Colonials football players. In his day, he quarterbacked the Queen of Peace High School team in North Arlington.