The Morse Tigers ran out to an early lead and withstood a late flurry from Mount Miguel, as they held on for a 26-19 win in the Week 1 edition of the El Cajon Ford East County Game of the Week.
After running for more than 4,000 yards in 2016, the Tigers picked up right about where they left off. On the second play from scrimmage, A.J. Vilaysane galloped 72 yards for a touchdown. Just four minutes later, Tim Patrick scored on a 41-yard burst of his own, moving the score to 12-0.
The Matadors responded in the second quarter, with help from a circus catch by Jarvis Heard. A long ball from Mugabe Miller popped off a cluster of hands and into the air, then into the hands of Heard for a gain deep into Tiger territory. Miller finished off the drive from there, with a 7-yard scamper to make it 12-6.
In the third quarter, the Morse ground attack continued with a 55-yard run by Martell Irby. But in the fourth, after another long reception by Heard, Miller capped off a Matador drive with a QB-keeper again to cut the deficit to 20-13.
With just a few minutes left, Miller plunged into the endzone again -- this time from 2 yards out -- and the scoreboard read Morse 20, Mount Miguel 19. All the home side needed was an extra point to tie the game.
But Irby stepped into the spotlight again, blocking the kick and preserving the Tigers' slim lead. He would add some cushion on the ensuing drive, with a 4-yard score giving them a 26-19 advantage, and that is how it would end.
Next week, Morse opens their home schedule with a visit from Oceanside, while the Matadors stay home and welcome in Chula Vista.
PREVIEW: The 2017 edition of the El Cajon Ford East County Game of the Week starts off with a geographical matchup that might catch you by surprise. While the Morse Tigers typically fall under Brandon Stone's jurisdiction in the City, they'll travel just over 3 miles to Mount Miguel to take on the Matadors in the season opener.
Each squad returns one of the top running backs in the county. Senior Shemar Greene totes the rock for Mount Miguel, after putting up 1099 yards and 11 TDs in 2016. His best game came against Santana, when he piled up 290 yards and 3 rushing scores, plus 69 yards and another TD through the air.
Martell Irby went over 100 yards in 10 of his 11 games last season, amassing a total of 1729 yards and 22 trips to the endzone. His top performance was a 275 yard, 4 score gem against Valley Center in the Division III playoffs.
Tim Patrick also went over 1000 yards for Morse in 2016, with 14 scores of his own. All told, last year's Tigers racked up over 4000 rushing yards, at over 9 yards per carry, on their way to an 8-5 record. And it was a good thing they could run, because they almost never passed -- they attempted just 12 passes the entire season. Ninth-year head coach Tracy McNair has said that the offense will open up more this year.
We will have live pregame coverage on KUSI News between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. During the game, follow all the action on Twitter and Instagram, at @kusippr and @redjacketarmy. And of course, you can see all the highlights on the Prep Pigskin Report at 10:30 p.m., only on KUSI.