Jeff Stone, Sports Writer | Hinsdale Doings | Published October 26, 2006
Senior running back Steve Morris knows about much worse frustration than the Hinsdale Central football team suffered Friday.
During the third quarter of last year’s victory over Lyons Township in the regular-season finale, Morris suffered a tendon injury near his ankle, and he was sidelined for the entire playoff run to the Class 8A semifinals. Although the Red Devils were hit hard by Friday’s 25-14 loss at LT, especially after leading 14-3 at halftime, Morris is particularly ready to help the Red Devils regroup for this Class 8A playoff chance.
The Red Devils (5-4), the No. 15 seed in their half of the bracket, visit No. 2 seed Neuqua Valley (8-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, in Naperville.
“I know last year with the injury, it was tough seeing my teammates go on the field and realizing it was the last chance for a lot of them to play,” Morris said. “I feel really good to be able to help my teammates on the field, especially since maybe it’s their last chance, and to give them the best experiences they can in these last couple of weeks.”
Morris scored both touchdowns for the Red Devils (2-4 in Silver) on Friday, but the tide turned in the third quarter, and LT (5-4, 3-3 in Silver) took advantage for its fourth straight victory to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, LT punter Casey McMurray was pinned in his end zone, but his blast and a friendly bounce put the ball all the way back on the Red Devils’ 28-yard line. On the next play, the Red Devils’ Clayton Passero scored a touchdown on an end-around run, but the score was nullified by two penalties along the sideline. Quarterback Zach Leathers was intercepted three plays later, and the Lions turned that into their first of three touchdown runs by McMurray.
LT took an 18-14 lead with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left on a 10-play, 80-yard drive and added another score with 1:47 to go after the Lions’ Matt Gralen recovered a fumbled lateral at the Red Devils’ 10.
“We scored (at 14-3) and we had the game over. We just had way too many penalties and that’s what it came down to,” Hinsdale Central coach Mike DiMatteo said. “They played well, too, but the fact of the matter was we just didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had. You can’t let a touchdown go like that, and we did.”
The Red Devils dominated the first half. Kyle Larkin recovered a fumble at the LT 22, and Morris scored on a 1-yard run three plays later with 3:11 left in the first quarter.
Another great punt by McMurray downed at the 5 pinned the Red Devils in the second half, but they responded with an eight-play drive with Morris scoring on a 3-yard run 4:25 before halftime. Leathers made a 54-yard option run around blocks from Tim Curran and Jack DiNardo to the LT 6.
LT scored with 39.8 seconds before halftime on McMurray’s 28-yard field goal. The drive started with a 38-yard pass to the Red Devils’ 26 after LT gained just 17 yards on its first five possessions. LT’s second TD came after a 19-yard pass play to the 2 on third-and-12.
“If anything, (that third-quarter punt) was the momentum changer,” DiMatteo said. “This one’s a hard one to swallow, but on the other hand the juniors can learn a really good lesson.”
Hinsdale Central led 321-179 in total yards but also had seven penalties for 48 yards. Matt Kajmowicz and J.T. Sandstedt (9 tackles each), Nick Chenier (8 tackles), Jon Rogowski, Chase Culbertson, Pat Clegg and DiNardo had sacks or tackles for loss.
Morris appears back to speed after an ankle injury hampered him earlier this season.
“Finally — it feels good coming on senior year,” Morris said. On the other hand, Neuqua senior running back Alan Smith, an honorable mention all-stater in 2005, will miss Friday’s game with a torn anterior
cruciate knee ligament. “I know him from track, and he’s a really cool guy. I know what it feels like to be him,” Morris said.
Copyright © 2006, The Doings