DECKERVILLE — Morrice defeated Deckerville 50-24 on a frigid Friday night to win a regional championship and continue its quest for a second straight state title.
“Winning regionals two years in a row is a feeling I can’t even describe…not a lot of people get to do this,” said Morrice senior captain Shane Cole, who had six tackles along with six carries for 26 yards and a TD in the victory.
Morrice quarterback Jonathan Carpenter had a school-record 47 carries for 374 yards and four touchdowns. The Orioles rushed for 492 yards as a team.
“I trust my teammates and trust them to be where they’re suppose to be,” Carpenter said. “I just read the holes and get to them.”
The 374 yards was the second-highest single-game total in Shiawassee County-area history. Morrice’s James Edington holds the record with a 450-yard game in 1999 against Webberville.
Despite the lopsided final score, the game started off as a dogfight. Morrice scored on its first drive on a Carpenter quarterback keeper, but Deckerville responded through the air to tie the game at 8.
By the midway point of the second, the Orioles were up 20-8 but it was clear that Deckerville wasn’t going anywhere. The Eagles offense was gaining traction both through the air and on the ground.
With just under three minutes left in the half Deckerville broke through the Morrice defense again, this time on the ground, to make it a one-score game at 20-16. Morrice’s next drive stalled and Carpenter threw an interception on fourth and long to give Deckerville the ball back with 40 seconds on the clock.
Then the Eagles started driving. They ripped off a 58-yard run to put themselves in the red zone with 22 seconds left and followed it with a QB scramble to get to the 5 with two seconds to go.
The Eagles went back to the air at the goal line, but Morrice defender Jarrett Wood swatted a would-be TD pass at the 1-yard line to end the half.
“Wood knocking that ball down at the end of the first half really solidified the momentum for us going into the half,” Orioles coach Kendall Crockett said. “If (Deckerville) would’ve got that I think it would have been a much different second half.”
That momentum carried the Orioles throughout the second half — starting with the second half kickoff that bounced off a Deckerville player’s hands and into a perfect position for Morrice to recover.
Crockett said the kick wasn’t an onside attempt.
“It was a squib that we missed, but we got lucky,” he said. “I really think (recovering the kick) turned the momentum of the game for us.”
From that point on everything seemed to break the Orioles’ way. The defense smothered nearly all of Deckerville’s offense, allowing only one score and also forcing a fumble.
Morrice junior linebacker Peyton Smith credited the team’s practices for the success.
“Our prep coming into this game was great,” he said. “We need to carry this momentum into both next week’s practice and game. We need to come in Monday ready to work.”
Smith had a team-high eight tackles.
Crockett once again said the team’s late-season loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park helped prepare Morrice for this postseason run.
“I think against Crystal Falls really helped prepared us for a physical game like this,” said Crockett. “Deckerville is a great rivalry for us. I just want to take the momentum that we have today and see what we can do next week.”
Morrice will play Martin or Colon in the state semifinals next weekend. Those two teams play today at Colon.