On a day in which the Morris football team was seeking its 10th state appearance in school history, the Redskins knew it was going to have to come up big against Sacred Heart Griffin on Saturday.
Not only did they do that in the broader sense, they did so in several key instances in the 30-20 semifinal win over the Cyclones.
While Morris did force a turnover when Jake Hogan got a strip and Jason Matteson a fumble recovery on the first play that SHG had the ball. However, the Cyclones would bounce back to take a 7-0 lead in it's next possession after a Redskins punt.'
Morris tied the game on a 12-play drive with six minutes before half, but three plays later came the first big play of the game. It came on an interception by defensive end Danny Friend, his third of the season.
"It was a big momentum change for us. It got the crowd going and we were able to go down and score," Friend said. "I saw them run it the first time and I thought I might be able to get that. Two plays later they ran it and I was lucky enough to get a hand on it."
To Morris coach Alan Thorson, it was perhaps the biggest moment of the day.
"That to me was the turning point; when you could feel the momentum swing. What a great play. You see that kid do it week after week," Thorson said. "It's like every other week that Danny is making a huge play for us. And the reception down in the end zone. The kid is one of the best players I have ever seen."
As Friend indicated, the Redskins did score off the interception when they went down and kicked a field goal as the half expired. In that Morris drive came the next big play of the game for the locals.
Facing a fourth and 4 from midfield, Morris reached into its bag of tricks and called for a fake punt with Preston Miracle throwing a first-down pass to Jeff Perry of 15 yards.
"We've had that in our back pocket for three years now. It came to me one day. No one every runs a screen out of punt formation. To get to the state championship team, you can't hold anything back," Morris special teams coach Bill Lauer said. "I'm just thankful that it worked. He's a pretty good pitcher, so we know he can throw the ball. We've had a lot of confidence in Preston throwing the ball when we have to. Every time he goes to punt, he's calling for it."
Thorson said that Miracle has been wanting to run a fake punt all year.
"When I sent to punt team out, coach (John) Courter came up and said 'fake it'. The funny thing is, Preston always looks and me. We have a hand signal saying he wants to run it and I'm like 'no, no, no', but this time I just nodded my head to him," he said. "He looked at me and you could tell he was like 'really?'. I just kept nodding my head and he called it in the huddle. It was a huge play."
Miracle said the first-down completion was the first pass he's ever attempted in a football game ever.
"I've never thrown a pass during the game. It's been in the whole year. We found the right opportunity to pull it out," Miracle said. "It's a planned play. It was 6 yards in the air and (Perry) picked up 15."
After the half, Morris fell behind 13-10, setting up the next in a long line of big plays. This one came from quarterback Zach Cinnamon and he took a sneak 56 yards to the house.
"They really weren't covering the A-gaps. I went through, a kid hit me and I just kept on driving. It worked out," Cinnamon said. "We saw it on film. We knew they weren't going to play A-gap and we thought the QB sneak would be there the whole time."
Cinnamon then came up big on a fourth down play after Morris had driven downfield in 15 plays out of the T-formation.
"It was me running up the seam, the line was able to get good protection, Cinnamon was able to throw it up and I was able to go up and get it," Friend said. "He did a great job of putting it up where I could make a play on it."
Finally, with SHG keying on Sobol in the T, Morris started switching it up by giving Perry his time in the spotlight. His reward was a 61-yard TD run with a little more that six minutes to play that essentially sealed the win.
"They started to stop (Sobol), so they gave it to me and I took it down the sideline. It was a 34-double lead," Perry said. "My two running backs told me to just follow them. It was on the inside and the line blocked great. I read the fullback's block, went inside and took it all the way."
All the way to a ride on the Champaign Train.