WEST LIBERTY —
Lawrence County ran 30 fewer plays than Morgan County in Friday's Class 3A first round football playoff game.
The Bulldogs gained 46 fewer total yards and had seven fewer first downs.
Didn't matter: Lawrence County 22, Morgan County 14, the Bulldogs' second straight postseason win in West Liberty was the result.
After Lawrence County coach Joey Cecil kissed his wife, he said his team was lucky enough to hold on.
“One of the things when you play (Morgan County), you understand they're going to grind it out, possession you, possession you, possession you,” Cecil said. “We played most of the game on our end of the field, and we were lucky enough to keep them out (of the end zone) a couple times.”
Choosing a Most Valuable Bulldog was tough.
You could go with senior Blake Prince because he ran 70 yards for one touchdown and caught a 24-yard A.J. Cyrus pass for another. Prince mishandled the handoff.
“It slipped out of my hands, I caught it in midair and just took off with it,” Prince said.
There was Cyrus, who finished with 79 rushing yards.
Finally, there were nose tackle Charlie Bradshaw and linebacker Devon Perry, who stuffed Morgan County's Walker Crase on fourth-and-goal late in the fourth quarter.
Bradshaw made the initial hit by beating Lawrence County's guard, and Perry came in behind.
“Charlie grabbed (Crase's) leg, and I just cleaned it up,” Perry said.
The frustrating thing for Morgan County was, Cougars head coach Brian Turner tried to call a timeout before Crase's run, but officials didn't see him.
“We would have run our off-tackle play, we've got a little different blocking variation on it,” Turner said. “It's really three or four different plays all in one. That's what we wanted to do; it's who we are, it's our whole identity.”
To say Friday's first half — a 14-14 deadlock — was heated was akin to calling Peyton Manning a decent quarterback. It was an understatement.
And it was nearly all on the ground.
Morgan County ran for 28 times for 137 of its 141 total yards (Kody Thornsberry ran 18 times for 98), with Thornsberry scoring from five and 26.
Lawrence County, meanwhile, gained 101 rushing yards on just seven carries.
Morgan County (8-3) opened the game with a double-wing offense with backs just behind the front line on both sides. Most of the time, Thornsberry ran around right end, while Walker Crase did much the same around the left side.
Both worked well. Thornsberry ran six times for 27 yards (he finished the night with 32 carries for 158 yards) — including the five-yarder with 6:13 to go in the first — and Crase added 22 yards on his only carry of the drive.
Lawrence County (5-6) ran just 14 plays in the first half. They didn't need many — Prince took the Bulldogs' second snap through the middle of the Cougar line with a spin over left guard for 70.
Cyrus completed just two of seven passes for 37 yards for the game, but one was a 24-yarder to Prince with 6:49 left in the second quarter.
A scuffle near halftime between Morgan County's Deven Banks and Lawrence County's Chase Coverdale — both were ejected, and Coverdale will miss next week's game against Belfry — hurt the Cougars the most because Banks was a starting linebacker.
Here's why: the Bulldogs opened the third quarter with several “36 Outside Veer” plays out of its option package around right end, in which Cyrus faked to fullback Ricky Goble and ran three times for 41 yards — exactly where Banks would have been. It worked one final time, on Cyrus' 5-yard touchdown run, which gave the Bulldogs the winning margin.
“They were biting on (Goble) all night; that just opened the outside,” Cyrus said.
Morgan County set up its last chance the way it had done all night. Thornsberry carried five times for 27 yards, which put the ball at the Lawrence County 7. Thornsberry carried twice for two yards, and Crase carried once for four.