The curtain came up for a new season of prep football for Morris Area Friday. The Tigers were on the road to play New London-Spicer. It was a monumental assignment for coach Jerry Witt's gridders as NL-Spicer is the defending state champion in Class AAA.
NL-Spicer boys athletics also garnered No. 1 in boys basketball last winter. A key player from that basketball campaign, Jayme Moten (remembered in large part for his frequent smile), is calling the signals for the Wildcat gridders this fall.
The Tigers did fairly well holding down Moten's contributions Friday, but it was not a winning night for the Witt crew. The Tigers were defeated 20-14.
The early stages did look promising for the Tigers. It was the orange and black crew getting on the scoreboard first with a big play pass. Ryan Beyer was on the throwing end and Cody Cannon did the catching. The referee signaled "touchdown" on this 37-yard play that came in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
Moten finished the night just five of 16 passing with two interceptions, but he got excellent mileage on his completions. Like when he connected with Tanner Tobkin for his own 37-yard TD pass, answering the Tigers' initial score.
NL-Spicer fans expected the score to be tied at this point, but the extra point try went awry.
The Tigers entered halftime clinging to a 7-6 lead.
Would it hold? It did through the pretty uneventful third quarter, a quarter that saw no further scoring by either team.
The game's complexion got more interesting in the fourth. Moten scampered into the end zone from one yard out. The Wildcats opened up some breathing room on the scoreboard thanks to a 55-yard scoring run by Ronnie Johnson.
The Wildcats would need those points because the Tigers' Tyler Hansen reached the end zone on a seven-yard scamper with about eight minutes remaining. Jordan Fletcher kicked for the extra point as he had done after the Tigers' first score. But there would be no further scoring on the night by Morris Area, and the valiant upset bid came up short.
Still, the orange and black fans who made the trip for season opener night could feel heartened by what they saw.
Beyer finished the night with passing numbers quite similar to Moten's. In other words, the completion percentage was low but the yards per completion figure was high. In Beyer's case the numbers were five-for-15 for 111 yards and one interception.
Ethan Bruer hauled in three of those passes for 62 yards. Cannon had just the one catch but it was that long TD. Brady Valnes had a nifty 12-yard pass reception.
Tyler Hansen got the bulk of the work carrying the football. Tyler gained 78 yards in workmanlike fashion, on 19 carries. Eric Riley and Beyer each had eight carries of the football with Riley picking up 25 yards and Beyer 35. The running game was rounded out by Cody Hickman and Ethan Bruer.
Defensive highlights were turned in by Bruer and Tim Ostby each with an interception.
The NL-Spicer running attack was spurred by Ronnie Johnson with eleven carries for 86 yards. Tobkin led in receptions with five, good for 37 yards.
Shawn Hatlestad had an interception for the Wildcats, and Dalton Lindstrand recovered a fumble.
Next: the home opener!
Morris Area football is set for its home opener which will be this coming Friday, Sept. 10, against the BOLD Warriors. Game-time is 7 p.m. and Big Cat Stadium is sure to be abuzz. Will the pep band play?
The volleyball Tigers were also on the road for their season opener last week. The Tigers visited Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley Thursday and were in sweep victory form. They took three straight with scores of 25-12, 25-18 and 25-22.
Cross country debuted with the big annual home invitational last Monday, and tennis has been in action for some time (as it's an annual early-bird fall sport).
Keep your eye on the calendar to be aware of when the Tigers can be enjoyed at the home venues!
Lots of excitement is in store.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org