BERWYN – The weather forced Morton football’s season opener to start a day late, and the Mustangs started playing a half late.
A pick six on the first drive of the game for Rich South started the visitors’ dominant first half. The Stars went into halftime up 26-0. Morton fought back to get within three points in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback and fell, 32-23.
“I think we weren’t used to our team yet,” senior quarterback Emilio Engle said. “It was our first game. It was a Saturday morning. All of us were kind of tired and not ready. We were losing 26-0 at half and then realized we had to step it up, but it was too late.”
Engle left the game in the second quarter with an injury and was replaced at quarterback by junior Anthony Stanciu. Engle passed for 25 yards and ran for 37 before leaving the game.
“I’m good,” Engle said. “I’m going to be back. It’s just a bruised knee, so I’ll be back soon.”
Running back Marlon Hester sparked the comeback in the second half with 102 of his 124 rushing yards coming after halftime. He scored two touchdowns on runs of three and six yards.
"He showed signs of that this summer," said coach Bob Organ. "We knew he had that in him. We just haven't seen it in a game."
Stanciu connected with Jamier Wheeler on a 16-yard touchdown to bring Morton within 26-23 with 7:40 to go. The Mustangs scored on their first three drives on the second half, and the defense added a safety after a high snap on a Rich South punt.
Rich South 32, Morton 23
Passing leaders: Darius Anthony, Rich South 13-for-27, 165 yards, 3 TD; Anthony Stanciu, Morton 2-for-6, 48 yards, TD; Emilio Engle, Morton 2-for-6, 25 yards
Rushing leaders: Marlon Hester, Morton 18 carries, 124 yards, 2 TD; Lemont Brooks, Rich South 10 carries, 90 yards, TD; Darius Anthony, Rich South 16 carries, 78 yards
Receiving leaders: Armani Reese, Rich South 6 rec., 80 yards; Jamier Wheeler, Morton 2 rec., 37 yards, TD
Unfortunately for Morton, by the time the Mustangs got the ball for their fourth possession of the half, they trailed by nine points with less than two minutes to go.
Before that, the Stars marched 65 yards and took nearly six minutes off the clock. Stanciu threw an interception on the ensuing drive, Morton’s fourth turnover, to lock it up.