By Mike Drake
After an OT heartbreaker in Roxbury last week, the Morristown High Colonials will try to climb into the win column at winless Chatham (0-2) this Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at 1 pm.
Morristown’s 21-6 victory against the Cougars last year was one of the few highlights in a 2-7 rebuilding campaign.
The Colonials have shown positive signs this season, playing strong defense in a 13-7 opening loss at Seton Hall Prep. The defense stepped up again against Roxbury’s Gaels, the defending state champs, who eked out a 13-10 win before a capacity hometown crowd of more than 1,700 fans, despite giving five turnovers to the Colonials.
Morristown could not take advantage of the turnovers until the waning minutes of the first half.
Junior defensive end Anton Buchner pounced on a fumbled handoff at the Gaels’ 11 yard line. Junior Jordan Powell blasted his way to the goal line on three successive carries up the middle. Junior quarterback Dallas McCall then took it in for the score, running right behind the devastating power drive block of senior center and captain Brian Bishop.
After a successful point-after by sophomore Ethan Bolson, the Colonials took a 7-0 lead into the intermission, silencing a raucous “Pro Roxbury” stadium under the lights.
The Colonials had opened the game by stunning the Roxbury fans with an opening kickoff return of 85 yards for a touchdown by the speedy Jordan Powell. But the brilliant run was nullified by a “block in the back” penalty call. Shortly after, the Colonials were forced to punt. Their defense then made four takeaways in the first half.
Colonials senior inside linebacker, Justin Danielson, who played a strong game with six tackles and one sack, intercepted a Peter Bartek pass. Senior inside linebacker Freddy Ruiz led the defense with seven tackles, and seniors Joey Murphy and Danny Supple added six apiece. Senior defensive end Brandon Blaise had 4.5 tackles, despite battling double teams throughout the night, and senior Justin Northern picked off a key pass.
Both defenses dominated the contest until early in the fourth quarter, when Roxbury finally put together a drive that required two fourth down conversions. Once again, the Gaels benefited from a penalty call inside the Colonials’ five yard line.
After running for no gain on two plays, the Gaels slipped into the end zone on a second effort dive by Craig Roumes. After the kick, the Colonials and Gaels remained tied at 7-7, forcing overtime.
Roxbury won the toss and chose to give the Colonials the first possession in OT. After the offense stalled, Ethan Bolson connected on a 34-yard field goal to give the Colonials a 10-7 lead.
The Gaels then took over. It looked like the Colonials’ defense was about seal the deal, but the Gaels scored the winning touchdown on a play action, 10-yard pass to Joe Maugeri from Grant Dixon.
In a hard bit of irony, the very aggressiveness that enabled the Colonials to wage such a staunch defensive battle proved to be their undoing, by making them vulnerable to the fake run/pass that decided the game.
Despite the loss, the Colonials proved they have come a long way, going toe to toe with last season’s state champs. On Saturday, they will face a Chatham team that is coming off home losses against Montville (final score: 8-3) and Parsippany Hills (35-7).
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.