So much for the lean years at Morrison.
The Mustangs haven’t started a season with three straight wins since their most recent state championship in 2011. The down years started not too long after that, and the Mustangs have only won nine of their last 36 games coming into this season.
With wins over Sherrard, Hall and Kewanee, the Mustangs are looking to turn things around, despite dealing with low numbers. The mission that seniors Grant Abell and Grant Slater are on is to change the dynamic of the Mustangs’ program back to its prime, where Morrison won 86 games from 2004 to 2012.
“Us going 3-0 this year, it’s getting people involved,” Abell said, “it’s getting younger kids wanting to go out for Morrison football. We’ve been low on numbers, and this is what we need. This is what we need for the program.”
Those recent years of success included many great battles against the Newman Comets, who will come to Bud Cole Field on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff. That is also Morrison’s Hall of Fame game, which is something that Newman senior Clayton Yde factors in when preparing for it.
“It’s their Hall of Fame game, from what I’m told, and that’s a big thing for them,” Yde said. “Our Hall of Fame game was when we played Princeton, and that meant a lot to us. We played our hearts out when we played Princeton, so we know that Morrison is going to play their hearts out in their Hall of Fame game, so we really got to give it to them if we want to stay in there with them.”
With both the Comets and Mustangs entering the game with 3-0 starts, at least on paper it feels like a meeting the two had from the mid-2000s to early 2010s. They split their 10 meetings from 2005 to 2011, but the Comets have outscored the Mustangs 171-8 the past four seasons.
According to Abell, that was then, and this year is now.
“[Newman’s] line fires out a lot, and they fire out with intensity and get to the second level a lot,” Abell said. “I think we can do a good job competing with them. I think our team does a good job firing out and getting a push.”
Morrison’s strong start can be attributed to a clearer focus on football, according to Mustangs coach Cory Bielema. Mistakes have been limited, and that has led to more consistency on the football field.
“We’ve made mistakes in the past, and that’s kind of killed some shots for us,” Bielema said. “The guys have responded well instead of allowing those mistakes to dwell. We’re being a little more consistent overall, and being able to handle adversity in that sense during a game situation.”
“In all their games, [Newman has] been pretty clear about standing big and standing strong,” Slater said. “Obviously this week, we’ve had broader focus and harder practices; but we feel like we have a definite shot to beat them.”
Both teams look to beat each other on the ground. Newman’s running duo of Easton Bianchi and Cade Gorzny have combined for 625 yards on 77 carries and eight touchdowns. Slater and Aaron Deter have combined for 492 yards on 79 carries and nine TDs for Morrison.
The Mustangs have also taken to the air at times, more than Newman so far, with Reilly Dolan throwing for 244 yards on 12-for-25 passing. Orion threw well against Newman last week, and that’s something Yde and the Comets’ defensive backs look to change on Friday.
“They have a few good running backs, and a few tall guys outside, and their quarterback [Dolan] can throw the ball pretty deep,” Yde said. “Against Orion, we weren’t the best against pass coverage, so we’ve been spending a lot of time working on our pass coverage this week. We’ll be ready for that if they try to pass on us, because we’ve been pretty solid stopping the run game this year.”
Newman at Morrison
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Bud Cole Field, Morrison
Radio: 102.7 FM