By George Slaughter
Morton Ranch began its season last week with a dramatic last-minute victory. The Mavericks had more drama in Friday night’s matchup with Cy Ridge, but a valiant last-quarter comeback fell short and the Rams claimed a 36-33 win.
The Rams improve to 2-0. The Mavericks fall to 1-1.
Morton Ranch got started early. On its first play from scrimmage, junior running Jaelon Moorehead took off on an 81-yard run, putting the Mavericks at the Rams’ 3-yard line. Two plays later, junior quarterback Jazeem Khan went over from one yard out.
It would be the only Mavericks lead of the game.
On the Mavericks next possession, they lost a fumble, which the Rams recovered at the Mavericks 23. Five plays later, Rams senior quarterback Noah Smith scored on a five-yard run.
Typically, a team attempts to kick the extra point. But the Rams decided to go for a two-point conversion, which they made to take an 8-7 lead with 5:30 in the first quarter.
Cy Ridge senior wide receiver Rodrick Jelks took the ball on a reverse and went 66 yards for the second Rams touchdown. The Rams converted another two-point conversion to take a 16-7 lead with 6:23 left in the first half.
After the teams exchanged turnovers, the Mavericks found themselves at the Rams 23, and were able to drive to the Rams’ 2. But another Mavericks fumble ended the chance for a touchdown, and junior kicker Gabriel Garcia hit a 21-yard field goal.
The Rams came back on the next possession, with Smith hitting junior running back Leslie Whittington on a pass near the Morton Ranch sideline. Smith avoided several would-be tacklers and scored on a 59-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in the first half.
Again, the Rams went for, and made, a two-point conversion. They led 24-10 at this point. The three extra points would prove the winning margin in the game. Mavericks coach Ron Counter said his team didn’t expect the repeated two-point conversions and would have to work on defending them in the future.
The Rams blew the game open in the third quarter. The first touchdown came on a 27-yard pass from Smith to senior wide receiver Jermaine Lockett. This time the Rams attempted to kick the extra point, and it was blocked. The second came on another long touchdown pass, this one for 68 yards, from Smith to Jelks. The Rams two-point conversion following this touchdown failed. The lead was 36-10 at this point.
The Mavericks began their rally with a one-yard touchdown run by Khan with 1:12 left in the third.
The Maverick comeback kicked into gear in the fourth quarter, though. On the ensuing possession, the Mavericks defense held and forced a Rams punt. On the punt plan, a bad snap from center forced the punter to chase the ball into the end zone, where he was tackled for a safety.
Morton Ranch got the ball back after the safety and made another scoring drive, which was capped by a 17-yard pass from Khan to senior wide receiver Anthony Baker with 7:14 left.
On its next possession, Morton Ranch scored its final touchdown, which came on a 14-yard pass from junior quarterback Jaden Diaz to junior wide receiver Josh Gaton with 1:59 left in the game.
The Mavericks attempted an onside kick, but the Rams recovered and ran out the clock to secure the win.
“I told them all week that Cy Ridge was a very good football team,” Counter said. “They just beat a good Cy Woods team. It was very obvious on film they were a good team, but we think we’re a very good football team, too. This was a good test for us. We’ve had two games that have come down to the last minute, to the last few seconds, and I cannot be more prouder of our kids and our effort. We just have to clean some things up. We’ll regroup.”
The Mavericks’ next game will be against Westside. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Saturday at Rhodes Stadium.