The light at the end of the tunnel is near for the Morton football team (0-3, 0-1).
The team took another step forward in a process that first-year coach Tim Brilley said takes time.
“There’s no moral victories, but I was proud of the way we competed. The kids are slowly learning what it takes to win, but it’s never going to be easy,” Brilley said. “I’ve got to prove to them that we can compete with anybody in our conference.”
The Potters fell 44-21 to Mid-Illini Conference opponent Metamora (3-0,1-0) Friday, but lead early in the first quarter and only trailed by 10 entering the fourth.
“We had a good week of practice and really focused on playing a full four-quarter game,” Brilley said. “Overall, we definitely executed on both sides of the ball. The thing I was most proud of was, we went toe-to-toe with them. We’re definitely making progress. Our attitudes are great and our effort’s there.”
After little to no progress on offense against Centralia, the Potters offense showed life against the IHSA Class 5A No.5-ranked Redbirds.
With adjustments to the offensive line, the Potters backfield was able to find room between the tackles, rushing for 194 yards.
Morton moved Bryce Brekke from tight end to tackle and Blake Long to the center position while also returning two players from suspensions to help sure up the front five and give more depth to the team.
“That will help at our depth and keeping guys fresh, keeping them on the field with our tempo and how we want to go fast on offense,”Brilley said.
Quarterback Tucker Anderson posted his best game of the season, completing 14-for-28 passing with 132 yards and two touchdowns, including his 41-yard pass to Nolan Donald to give the Potters’ 7-6 lead in the first quarter.
Junior Bradley Getz had his best game of the season, running for 102 yards on seven carries. Getz brought the Potters within 10 points in the third quarter after his 43-yard touchdown run.
Anderson showed his chemistry with wide receiver Jarrett Crider, completing a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
The duo of Anderson and Crider have now scored a touchdown in three straight games.
“He’s a matchup issue for defenses and really helps stretch the field. He had two drops late in the first half that probably could of got us down to a one score game at the half, but he’s a sophomore so he’s going to make some mistakes, but he’s been consistently good,” Brilley said.
The Potters much smaller defense contained the Redbirds defense as much as they could, but they could not stop running back Ethan Hodel, who finished with 119 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Metamora finished with 451 yards of total offense compared to Morton’s 328 yards.
Despite the win, Metamora head coach Pat Ryan was not happy with his team’s performance, telling GateHouse Media Illinois he would be “shocked” if Morton goes winless this season.
“I appreciate (his support),” Brilley said. “I think its visible to anyone that’s been around the football program. All I’m getting is positive feedback from our administration, fans and parents and the difference they’re feeling. If you’re really paying attention, obviously you can see the difference. ... It feels good to get that. Coach Ryan was one of the first people I talked to when I interviewed for this job and he was very confident in the Morton community in its decision.”
The Potters hope to hand Limestone (3-0, 1-0) its first loss of the season next week on the road. The Rockets are coming off a 28-8 win over East Peoria at EastSide Centre Friday night.
“Hopefully we can transition week-to-week pretty well,” Brilley said. “They’re a tough physical team and we’re just going to have to show up. If we play like we did (Friday), I think we can have a shot to win the game.”