For the Championship, It’s Morse That Roared
Morse did all the things a championship team is supposed to do after it wins a title.
Everybody piled into a big cluster near the south end zone of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and jumped up and down in front of the cameras. Then quarterback Teddy Lawrence shook hands and gave interviews. So did running back Gary Taylor.
But this was not jubilation. After squashing Orange Glen, 28-7, Saturday night in front of 14,287 to win the San Diego Section 3-A championship and complete a perfect season, the Tigers (14-0) cracked a few smiles, filed into the locker room and split. There were few hoots and hollers. There were no tears.
Let’s face it, this victory was no real surprise.
“To be honest,” Morse Coach John Shacklett said, “I didn’t expect to lose this ballgame.”
Lawrence even had to convince himself he should whoop it up a little.
“Toward the end of the game I wasn’t that excited because I didn’t do good,” Lawrence said. “But then I said: ‘Wait a minute. We just won the CIF.’ ”
And, despite turning over the ball seven times, they set records in the process.
Morse collected 648 points this season, most in section history. Rancho Buena Vista is second with 622.
Taylor rushed for 163 yards in 20 carries to put his season total at 2,625 and surpass the record of 2,565 set by Scott Garcia of Rancho Buena Vista two seasons ago.
And Lawrence didn’t exactly disgrace himself. He threw two interceptions and lost one fumble, but he also slithered and swerved around baffled Patriot defenders all night, scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 82 yards in 11 carries.
The highlight of his performance came with 3:05 remaining in the first quarter when he went 99 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown. Orange Glen kicker David Napier did his best to make the tackle, but Lawrence put a move on him and Napier did a face plant.
That touchdown gave Morse a 14-7 lead, and the Tigers controlled the rest of the game by shutting down Orange Glen’s short-passing offense with constant pressure on quarterback Omar Navarro.
Morse took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Taylor scored on an 11-yard run to cap an 80-yard drive. A few minutes later, Orange Glen capitalized on a blown defensive assignment and scored on 45-yard touchdown pass from Navarro to Randy Boozer.
Lawrence’s kickoff return gave Morse a 14-7 halftime lead. The Tigers put the game out of reach in the third quarter with two touchdowns on drives of 20 and 41 yards.
The first, a one-yard run by fullback Conan Smith, came five plays after an interception by defensive back Tommy Bennett. Morse scored the game’s final touchdown after linebacker Charles Harris crashed through the Patriot line, sacked Navarro and forced him to fumble. Andrew Pangelinan jumped on it, and, six plays later, Lawrence scored on a seven-yard run.
Then Morse players stood around and waited for the clock to run out. The biggest cheer in the fourth quarter came when a Morse counselor caught a punt on the sideline and did a little dance in front of the Tiger cheering section.
Maybe it would have been sweeter if Rancho Buena Vista had been the opponent.
“Put it this way,” Morse lineman Salua Poutoa said, “if it was Rancho we’d be more excited because we wanted to get revenge. But I guess they were too weak to come to the stadium.”
Rancho Buena Vista lost to Orange Glen, 24-7, in the semifinal last week. RBV defeated Morse in the 3-A championship game last year.
Orange Glen, the team few expected to be anywhere near this game, finished 9-5. Patriot Coach Rob Gilster was offered an apology by junior receiver Kris Plash at the end of the night.
“I’m sorry,” said Plash, shaking Gilster’s hand just outside the locker room door.”
“I’m sorry, too,” he said.
Yet this wasn’t all bad. After all, Morse is an elite group. USA Today ranks the Tigers sixth in the country.
Said Gilster: “If you’re going to get dominated like that it might as well be against the No. 1 team in the state.”
Still, losing a championship game always stings.
“Everybody thought we were going to lose,” Plash said. “And that’s what we went out and did.”
Navarro nodded and said: “We wanted to prove everybody wrong.”