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Second-half spark lifts Morgantown to MoHawk Bowl victory, 26-18, over University

MORGANTOWN — Despite being heavy favorites entering Friday night’s MoHawk Bowl, it was the Morgantown Mohigans who looked like the inferior team for the first two and a half quarters.

“We didn’t play well, we just played flat,” MHS coach Sean Biser said. “We did not have any every, no juice. I have no real explanation for it.”

A big play in the third quarter finally sparked the Morgantown offense and the Mohigan defense held on late as MHS claimed its second-straight MoHawk Bowl, 26-18, over their rival University Hawks.

University (4-5) opened the game with a 12-0 lead following a touchdown run by Melique Lewis and a 23-yard scoring pass from Luke Hudson to John Coleman in the first quarter.

MHS (7-2) managed to score before halftime on a 23-yard pass from Maddox Bowers to Andrew Phares to cut the lead to 12-7 at halftime.

“We just weren’t executing the way we were supposed to execute offensively,” Biser said. “And then defensively, we just couldn’t get off the field on third down.”

The Hawks scored on their opening drive of the second half, another short run by Lewis, and led 18-7 midway through the period.

Morgantown debuted a new offense after halftime, going from their traditional wing-T to a simpler I-formation and it paid off right away. The Mohigans hit a 66-yard screen pass to Bobby Powell that set up a two-yard score by AJ Thomas.

“When any of us make plays, it just brings everyone’s energy levels up and makes us all play better,” Thomas said of Powell’s gain. “I think that was the spark we needed out of the half that really pushed us to win that game.”

Following a defensive stop, Thomas broke off a 61-yard run to make it back into the endzone and make it a one-point MHS lead, 19-18.

“You’ve just got to keep playing,” Biser said. “I said quit worrying about the score, just play and if it’s meant to be, then we’ll be successful.”

After the teams traded punts, University got the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to drive down the field and take a late lead.

Hudson, who played great all night, orchestrated an effective drive and looked to have the go-ahead score, only for the play to be called back due to a penalty. UHS eventually had to settle for a field goal try, but Coleman’s 42-yard kick sailed just wide to the right and MHS’s lead was intact.

Thomas seemed to put the game away when he scored on a 68-yard run to make it 26-18 Morgantown lead. It was the same simple play his other big gain came on.

“That was just a great move on their part,” Kelley said. “A simple, old-style football play and they caught us.”

Technically, the best play would have been for Thomas to go down short so the Mohigans could have run the remaining 1:44 off the clock, but Biser said he’ll take the points.

“(Assistant) Coach (Adam) King said we scored too fast,” Biser said. “We needed to milk the clock a little more, I agree, but when you’re wide open, I’ll take the points.”

“I really wasn’t expecting to break open on that one,” Thomas added. “I just saw it was open and I just went.”

Trailing by eight, UHS had one final chance to score, but Morgantown’s defense forced four straight incompletions to win the game.

“They got some breaks, we got some breaks,” Kelley said. “Everybody told us we were going to get killed. We had multiple chances to win the game and we didn’t, and then they got the big run there at the end.

“I’m just proud of my kids. We’re every bit as good as them, if not better,” Kelley continued. “I can’t fault anything we did. If anybody thinks there’s much difference between these two teams they’re crazy.”

Hudson completed 18 of 33 passes for 283 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Ethan Jackson was his favorite target, catching a dozen passes for 167 yards. Coleman finished with five receptions for 114 yards and a score.

Thomas led Morgantown with 196 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He had all but one carry for MHS in the second half.

“I just felt like they trusted me with the ball for the majority of the game,” he said. “I thank them for that.”

Powell had 69 receiving yards and Phares had the 23-yard touchdown catch. Bowers completed 4 of 11 passes for 99 yards with a touchdown and interception. 

“Great game, great high school atmosphere, great bands, great cheerleaders,” Biser said. “The fans were amazing. All the way around, a great night for high school football.”

Box Score
MHS 0 7 12 7 — 26
UHS 6 6 6 0 — 18

Scoring Summary
UHS — M. Lewis run 1 (kick blocked)
UHS — Coleman pass 37 from Hudson (pass fail)
MHS — Phares pass 23 from 16 (Stire kick)
UHS — M. Lewis run 3 (pass fail)
MHS — Thomas run 3 (pass fail)
MHS — Thomas run 61 (run fail)
MHS — Thomas run 68 (Stire kick)

Individual Statistics
RUSHING — Morgantown: 31-259-3td (Nutter 9-41; Powell 5-23; Thomas 14-196-3td; Ullom 1-3). University: 32-49-2td (Jorge 21-39; M. Lewis 3-6-2td; Hudson 8-4).
PASSING — Morgantown: 4-11 99 td-int (all Bowers). University: 18-33 283 td-int (all Hudson).
RECEIVING — Morgantown: 4-99-td (Powell 2-69; Phares 1-23-td; Thomas 1-7). University: 18-283-td (Jackson 12-167; Coleman 5-114-td; Jorge 1-2).