MORRISON – Thirteen plays. Sixty-eight yards. Seven minutes, 16 seconds.
Those are the vitals on the Amboy Clippers’ victory march in a 24-12 victory over Morrison on Friday night at Bud Cole Field.
It began with 12 minutes on the clock, the Clippers (5-0) leading the Big Rivers throwdown 12-6. It nearly ground to a halt, if not for fullback Bailey Appleman’s second effort on fourth-and-1 at the Morrison 28-yard line. But after being hit at the line, his legs churned all the way to the 17.
Cooper Nelson picked up 4 more, Appleman got 6, then Nelson scored from 4 yards away.
“Our linemen did great, stuck to their blocking, and we pounded the ball,” Appleman said.
The point after, as was the case in all six touchdowns, failed.
From two scores behind the 8-ball, Morrison quickly made things interesting. Senior quarterback Matt Wilkens unleashed a 54-yard touchdown pass that traveled about 45 yards in the air before Danny Willis caught up with it, juggled it momentarily at the 20, then secured it to score his second receiving touchdown untouched.
“I can’t say much other than Danny is a really quick kid,” Wilkens said. “He’s just such a fast kid.”
But then Amboy’s methodical running attack turned lethal, Cooper bouncing a run toward the left sideline. He used a gorgeous seal block by Jordan Ernst along the left edge and turned it up for a 46-yard run to the Mustangs’ 3, where Ryan Mayberry pushed him out of bounds.
Appleman scored his second touchdown on the next play. Wilkens was intercepted for the second time on fourth-and-6. Austin Cover picked the deep ball intended for Willis to seal the victory.
After managing 38 yards in the first 22 minutes, Amboy traveled 63 yards in less than a minute to take a 6-0 lead before half when Taylor Ikens leapt to snare a 17-yard TD pass.
Morrison got even on an 18-yard pass to Willis. Cover and Appleman draped him along the back of the end zone. When the smoke cleared, Cover held the ball, the officials signaled touchdown and Appleman was stunned.
“I don’t think he caught it,” Appleman said. “And if he did, I think we were out of bounds.”
Appleman the blocked Willis’ extra-point try. On the ensuing drive, he carried defenders to the sticks on fourth-and-4 at the Morrison 31. Curiously, the officials measured but couldn’t make a call, then adjusted the chains and awarded Amboy the first.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-goal at the 1, Appleman plowed in.
The Mustangs lost 5 combined yards on their first five plays, all rushes.
“They turned us one-dimensional, basically,” Morrison head coach Cory Bielema said. “We were able to get over the top of them a few times with the passing game. Matt did a great job stepping up, because he’s has some struggles at times this year. We really needed him, and he just about got us there.”
Wilkens connected on his first six attempts and finished 9-for-17 for 153 yards. The Clippers were workmanlike, amassing 246 yards on 49 carries. They were not to be denied a shot to make a statement.
“This means a lot, to beat the 2A state champs from last year,” Appleman said. “It feels great. This is what we live for – we practice hard all summer after lifting during the winter. This is what we get for that. “We haven’t gotten much respect, I’ll tell you that. This game should give us some respect.”