By GEOFF STOUTE
Morgan City coach Dennis Lorio called it the “greatest coaching point.”
But there’s no doubt it was one he didn’t want his team to experience.
In a game with lots of action, it was the “little things” Lorio said that cost his squad in a 34-32 double-overtime heartbreaking loss to Ellender Memorial Friday in District 7-4A action.
“I’m so proud of the kids’ effort,” Lorio said. “Obviously you could see the difference when we get Jaylen (Jones) back and we get Kevon (Marsh) back and Daryl (Johnson). We can compete. Kids played hard, did so many good things, but you can’t undo it. I think it was the greatest coaching point, one of the toughest losses of my career, but as I told them in the end zone, ‘I love your effort, but now you know why we fuss about the little things.’”
Ellender coach Terry Washington called the contest “one of the wildest games.
“It was good for the fans but for us coaches, it’s never good when you get involved in a game like this,” he said. “Right now, we’re mentally spent. Going in double overtime, that team had us on the ropes. They played hard the whole time. We played hard and we just made one more play than them and were able to pull it off, but what a game.”
The Tigers, who had flirted with victory twice — once late in the fourth quarter and another time in the first overtime — could not overcome the Patriots or their miscues.
Late in the fourth quarter, with Morgan City and Ellender tied at 20, Morgan City’s return man fielded a catch at the Ellender 43 yard line with 5 seconds remaining.
On the play, Ellender was flagged 15 yards for hitting Morgan City’s return man, which would have meant Morgan City’s possession would begin at the Ellender 28 and Morgan City could win the game with a field goal by kicker Sergize Flores, who was more than capable of connecting from what would have probably been around 45 yards or less.
However, that’s when things got interesting.
Almost immediately after the flag was thrown, Morgan City’s Clifton Escort, apparently excited about the possibility of a win, performed a cartwheel near the referee. An additional flag was thrown and Morgan City was penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration, meaning the penalties would offset.
That meant Flores would not get any extra room for a possible game-winning kick.
Lorio said the penalty was “the killer.”
“In the history of football, that was one of the most unfortunate things I have ever heard of,” Lorio said. “And of course he’s devastated, but now you know why this ain’t no little boy play game. This is serious.”
Even with the penalty negating the shorter kick, things got even more interesting because on the play, a rarely used high school rule was in effect in which on a fair catch, if it chooses to, the receiving team can boot a field goal attempt off a tee.
That meant Flores would get a free kick from the line of scrimmage, or from 53 yards away, while the Ellender defenders stood at that 30-yard line on back towards the goal line where they could return the untimed kick.
“Not many people know that, that anytime you fair catch a ball, you can have a free kick for three points on the spot,” Lorio said.
Count Washington as one of those.
“That’s my first time ever seeing something like that (in) 24 years,” he said.
Even with the extra distance, the kick still was within his range as he had kicked a 52-yarder in pregame that had 5 yards to spare.
However, this time, Flores’ kick, which was strong enough, was just wide left and the two teams went to overtime.
In the overtime, both teams got the ball from the opposing team’s 10-yard line and had four chances to score.
While Morgan City scored on its first play of its drive via a 10-yard pass from Jaylen Jones to Kevon Marsh, Flores — who has been nearly perfect on the season in extra points and field goals — missed the extra point, leaving Morgan City with a 26-20 lead. It was the second kick Flores had missed in the contest as earlier in the third quarter, he had a kick blocked.
“We hadn’t had that all year,” Lorio said of two missed extra points.
The miss was magnified more because after Ellender’s first overtime score on quarterback Curtis Anderson’s 15-yard pass to Jaharri Gahno, Anderson’s two-point run attempt was no good, forcing a second overtime.
The Patriots did not attempt a point-after attempt in the contest.
In the second overtime, Ellender scored on its first play via Anderson’s 10-yard run. Anderson, playing in place of starter Dustin “Doogie” Creppel, ran in the two-point conversion for a 34-26 advantage for the Patriots.
On Morgan City’s possession, the Tigers stayed alive when Jones’ fourth-down pass from 20-yards out went through the Ellender defender’s hands and was caught by Malcolm Watkins for a touchdown.
However, the Tigers’, excited about the score, wasted valuable time celebrating instead of lining up for the two-point conversion. Morgan City barely beat the play clock for the two-point conversion, and Jones’ pass fell incomplete to Marsh.
Washington said the missed kick in overtime “kind of let us off the hook” and allowed them to put the heat on Morgan City after scoring and converting the two-point conversion.
However, he said things would have been different if the Tigers had not been penalized towards the end of regulation and would have had the opportunity to kick the ball closer.
“He would have made it, and it would have sucked all the momentum out of us,” Washington said.
The miserable ending for Morgan City dampened a standout contest for Marsh, who rushed for 153 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown and caught three passes for 23 yards and another score.
Jones, in just the overtime possession, completed 2-of-3 passes for 30 yards and two touchdowns.
Escort also was an offensive spark for the Tigers as he carried seven times for 48 yards and two scores, Morgan City’s first two of the night.
“(Clifton) made a lot of good plays,” Lorio said. “He blocked well. He ran well.”
Escort punched Morgan City’s first score in from 10 yards out with 7:11 remaining.
Ellender took an 8-7 lead with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter on Anderson’s 1-yard run and subsequent two-point conversion and retained possession after recovering a squib kick, something the Patriots used often during the contest. Ellender’s drive ended deep in Morgan City territory when Morgan City’s Lloyd Singleton picked off Anderson in the end zone for a touchback.
Two plays later, Escort rushed for a 12-yard touchdown to extend Morgan City’s lead to 14-8 with 1:09 remaining in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 68-yard run by Marsh down to the Ellender 12.
Ellender tied the game on Anderson’s 23-yard run with 37 seconds remaining in the first half to tie the game at 14, where it would remain at the half.
Anderson finished the contest with 18 carries for 89 yards and three scores, while he completed 5-of-10 passes for 37 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“He stepped up. … He’s no Doogie. He can’t throw the football like Doogie, but he threw a couple of decent passes,” Washington said.
However, Washington said Anderson’s running ability gave them “an extra dimension.”
While both teams were tied at half, Ellender regained the lead early in the third quarter.
On the kickoff to Morgan City, Ellender recovered a squib kick and turned it into points three plays later when the Patriots’ running back, Justin Johnson, raced 30 yards to the end zone for a touchdown.
Anderson’s two-point run was no good with 10:50 remaining to extend the Ellender lead to 20-14.
Morgan City responded with an 11-play, 49-yard drive using runs by both Marsh and Escort, to move down the field before Marsh scored on a 1-yard run with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Flores’ extra point was blocked, leaving the game tied at 20.
While Morgan City remained winless at 0-7 and slipped to 0-1 in district play, Washington said he was surprised the Tigers had not won a game this year.
“I cannot believe that team has not won a game, because they play tough,” he said. “They played hard. We were fortunate.”
MCHS Box Score
First downs 10 16
Rushing yards 191 291
Passing yards 43 37
Total yards 234 328
A-C-HI 5-4-0 10-5-1
Penalty yards 8-65 13-110
Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-0
Punts-avg. 3-35.3 5-36
Score by Quarters
MCHS 14 0 6 0 6 6
EHS 8 6 6 0 6 8
MCHS: Clifton Escort 10-yd. run (Sergize Flores kick) 7:11
EHS: Curtis Anderson 1 yd. run (Anderson run) 3:13
MCHS: Escort 12-yd. run (Flores kick) 1:09
EHS: Anderson 23-yd. run (2pt. conversion fail) 0:37
EHS: Justin Johnson 30-yd. run (Anderson run) 10:50
MCHS: Kevon Marsh 1-yd.run (kick blocked) 4:38
MCHS: Jaylen Jones 10-yd. pass to Marsh (Kick fail)
EHS: Anderson 15-yd. pass to Jaharri Gahno (Run failed)
EHS: Anderson 10 yd. run (Anderson run)
MCHS: Jones 20-yd. pass to Malcolm Watkins (Pass failed)
Morgan City Individual stats
Kevon Marsh 22-153 TD, Clifton Escort 7-48 2TDs, Buddy Humphrey 1- (-5), Jaylen Jones 1- (-5)
Jaylen Jones 2-3-0 30yd. 2TDs; Hector Tolento 2-2-0 13 yds.
Kevon March 3-23 TD, Malcolm Watkins 1-20 TD