SUCCASUNNA, NJ – The Morristown High football team may not have won its season opener on Friday night, but the signs are all there for a promising year of Colonials football.
While Roxbury eventually defeated Morristown for a seventh straight time, 28-20, a tough defensive performance and an offense that came alive in crunch time saw the Colonials in their season’s bow.
The two schools have played each other 54 times since they first met in 1927, and Morristown is still hanging on to the all-time series by a 27-24-3 count.
Trailing 14-0 at the half, Morristown crept to within 21-14 of the Gaels with 9:24 to play, when senior quarterback Jake Buchner connected with sophomore receiver Jason Jones for a 42-yard touchdown pass. The strike came in a big spot, with the visitors facing a 4th & 1.
It appeared Morristown had recovered a surprise onside kick—which would have swung all momentum their way—on the ensuing kickoff, but the ball did not bounce off the ground and thus Roxbury held possession on an illegal procedure call.
“It was an outstanding kick, but we didn’t quite execute the recovery right,” Power said. “The ball must bounce to recover it, and our guys did not on that particular play.”
Morristown dug itself into an early hole in the first half. Roxbury scored on its second drive of the game when Michael Roumes finished off a six play, 72-yard drive with a five yard touchdown run. The score was set up a play earlier when Gaels quarterback connected with Kevin Sembrat for a 42-yard pickup on a fade route.
Held to a paltry 33 yards of total offense in the first half, the Colonials defense picked up the slack to keep themselves in the game. Roxbury possessed the football six times in the first two quarters, but were only twice able to get on the board.
Aided by a Morristown facemask penalty, the Gaels marched 77 yards on nine plays to double their lead when Roumes finished off the series with a 3-yard spurt. Riley O’Connor’s extra point gave the home side a 14-0 edge with 4:43 remaining in the half.
But the Colonials came out a different team in the second half.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Buchner pulled the string on a fake handoff to Drew Chilson out of the shotgun, kept it himself, and sprinted 43 yards to pay dirt to torch a Gaels defense that was caught far too much in over pursuit.
Ryan Devaney’s extra point trimmed the deficit to 14-7 at the 9:17 mark of the third.
“It wasn’t so much what I said, but the adjustments my coaching staff made,” Power said when asked about his team’s second half burst. “We picked up on a few things and made necessary changes.”
After the onside kick situation, Roxbury extended its lead to 28-14 when Sembrat took a handoff around left end for a score with 5:19 left in the game.
Morristown would again respond to a Gaels score on its next drive, when Jhamil King (10 carries, 49 yards) took a sweep handoff around the corner from five yards out with 2:38 to play. A 17-yard spurt from King two plays earlier set up the scoring sequence.
Sembrat would block the extra point attempt to keep the Roxbury advantage at eight, and Morristown was unable to get the football back to try and mount a final comeback.
The Colonials will have their home opener on Saturday afternoon when they host Randolph. With the North 1, Group 5 playoff field a competitive one as always, Morristown’s encounter with their old Iron Division rivals may have a large implication on the playoff picture moving forward.
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