Dunlap scored on its first possession and its defense dominated Friday night in a clash of unbeaten Mid-Illini Conference football teams.
Dunlap, ranked fourth in Class 5A, beat sixth-ranked Morton 41-14.
After losing the coin toss, the host Eagles (5-0, 3-0) received the game’s first possession. One minute, 16 seconds later, running back Luke Bennyhoff busted a 40-yard touchdown run, his first of three, to give Dunlap a 6-0 lead after the extra point was blocked.
“He’s an explosive kid. He’s a motivated kid,” Dunlap coach Brett Cazalet said of Bennyhoff. “He’s a great kid, gives great effort and has grown so much as a young man. We’re very lucky to have him.”
Morton’s first possession was a 180-degree difference from Dunlap’s. The Potters were forced to punt after Charlie Mangieri led a charge on third down to sack Morton quarterback Nolan Donald.
In fact, it took the Potters 16 minutes to gain a first down, and that was after a personal foul was called on Dunlap’s defense.
“Our defense, initially in the first half, played really, really well,” Cazalet said. “They tackled well in pursuit of the ball. Their offense did some stuff we hadn’t seen before and our kids adjusted well to it.”
Mangieri, who is typically a tight end, lined up at quarterback in a wildcat formation and took the direct snap for a 3-yard touchdown run. The Eagles led 13-0 with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
“I’m blessed that coach Caz gave me the opportunity to run the ball,” Mangieri said. “I don’t know if that’s why he called it wildcat, because I’m going to Northwestern, but it’s pretty special.”
Early in the second quarter, Myles Burke threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Guyton to give Dunlap a 20-0 lead on homecoming night.
“He put in a lot of extra time this week,” Cazalet said of Burke, who was 14-for-18 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. “He came in last Sunday and did some good film study and he stayed after practice — he did the things that good quarterbacks do. I think you started to see tonight how good he could be.”
Morton scored with 1:14 left in the first half on a 59-yard touchdown run by Donald. Dunlap’s lead was 27-7, and the Eagles had the game in control.
“They got the momentum and they kept it, and kept getting big play after big play and we just couldn’t answer the bell,” Morton coach Tim Brilley said.
Dunlap’s defense showcased its speed in containing Donald and running back Bradley Getz, who had rushed for a combined 1,406 yards and 19 touchdowns in Morton’s first four games.
“Defensively pursuing was big stopping (Getz, Donald and Jarrett Crider),” Mangieri said. “Offensively, it was a great team win. Our line did good and everybody played well.”
It was a big game in the middle of the season for both teams, something that hadn’t happened in decades. Morton last started 4-0 in 2006 and it was 1993 for Dunlap — long before players on either sideline were born.
“I think the game got a little away from us because we got too emotional,” Brilley said. “We worried more about who we were playing and how big the game was going to be and when things weren’t going our way, we got too low.”
Aaron Ferguson can be reached at 686-3207 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.