The Triad Knights had momentum Saturday afternoon, but the clock wasn’t on their side.
Morris knocked down a desperate fourth-down pass by Knights senior quarterback Tommy Bauer, then made one snap to finish off Triad 14-7 in a second-round game of the Class 5A football playoffs.
The Redskins (9-2) will play host to Metamora (8-3) in the quarterfinals next weekend. Morris is 7-0 at home this season.
“It’s playoff football,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said of the nerve-wracking finish endured by the Redskins, who led 14-0 until late in the third quarter.
“We knew coming in this was going to be a good game,” he said. “They have an offense that controls the clock and does a good job moving the ball. You’ve got to give their defense a lot of credit, because our offense has really been clicking.”
Triad (7-4) trailed 14-0 until junior tailback Trevor Nott busted loose for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:35 to play in the third quarter.
On their next possession, the Redskins had a 60-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Ricky Del Favero negated by a holding call. The defenses dug in from there, giving little.
We were trying to take down our second giant and legend in Illinois football. We just came up a little bit short. ... It was too little, too late. With 3:14 on the clock and having to go 58 yards, whatever it was, that’s tough to do.
Triad coach Paul Bassler
The Knights took over at their 41-yard line with 3:14 to play in the game and drove to the Morris 29. A sack and a holding call pushed back Triad, but on a third-and-20 play, Bauer, who seldom throws, hit senior Jacob O’Dell with a 17-yard pass to again reach the Redskins 29.
Triad, however, had no more timeouts, so the clock continued to roll. Bauer’s final heave to the right flank had too much air under it, and the Redskins easily knocked it away.
“We were trying to take down our second giant and legend in Illinois football,” said Triad coach Paul Bassler, whose team defeated Geneseo 35-7 in the first round. “We just came up a little bit short. ... It was too little, too late. With 3:14 on the clock and having to go 58 yards, whatever it was, that’s tough to do.”
Morris took control in the first half, building a 14-0 lead.
A 72-yard run by senior Michael Feeney set up the first score, a 3-yard run off right tackle by senior Michael Gerischer that made it 7-0 with 9:55 to play in the second quarter.
Two possessions later, the Redskins got good field position after a short punt, taking over at their 49. Five consecutive running plays set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Del Favero to junior Kameron Dransfeldt, who was wide-open over the middle.
That made it 14-0 with 1:43 to play in the first half.
“I’m supposed to come out and pretend like I’m going to block the safety so hopefully he will bite up,” Dransfeldt said. “But if I try to get through ... it worked perfectly. I saw the other safety and saw he bit, too, so I knew I was good. I wasn’t expecting (to be hit), so that helped. A lot of teams define us as an all-run team, so we’ve been trying to prove them wrong.”
Thorson credited the execution.
“We made the right play at the right time, and it was a good throw,” he said. “But we told them at halftime, ‘You can’t act like you’re up two touchdowns because it’s the playoffs and teams are going to fight back.’ We knew that. But our defense was just outstanding.”
Bassler said the Knights’ defense made the play too easy for the Redskins.
“It was a missed assignment,” Bassler said. “It broke my heart on the sidelines. It was very frustrating. We were probably a step and a half from sacking the quarterback. It’s a game of inches. Everybody says that. It’s a big football cliche. But it is. It’s a game of inches, and we were on the short end of it this time.”
Feeney finished with 16 carries for 124 yards. He had 103 yards in the first half. Senior Keagan Sobol added 10 carries for 55 yards for the Redskins, who rushed for 196 yards.
Del Favero was 4-for-8 for 50 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Triad rushed for 207 yards, with Nott finished with 19 carries and 134 yards. Senior Tom Kraudel had 17 carries for 81 yards and was particularly effective in the second half.
Bauer had seven rushes for minus-2 yards and sophomore Devin Towns was limited to minus-6 yards on eight carries.
Morris had three turnovers, as Triad recovered a fumble and had two interceptions. The Knights had one turnover. Senior Collin Black missed a 32-yard field goal on Triad’s opening possession.