'These guys didn't flinch': Morton football finds running game in big bounce-back win

Steve Stein
Journal Star

MORTON — Last season, all-state running back Seth Glatz ran for 3,246 yards and 46 touchdowns in 13 games for the Morton state semifinal football team.

The Journal Star player of the year has moved on in his football career. He's a freshman on the Western Illinois team.

Can the Potters replace Glatz?

"We're going to try," said quarterback Jude Hart. "But it's going to take three of us."

That's exactly what happened Friday night at Carper Field in Morton's home opener. The Potters' three-headed running monster roared for the first time this season, with Glatz watching some of the game from the Morton sideline.

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Morton's Jude Hart (7) runs behind lineman Josh Hitz (51) as Richwoods' Kaizon Davis pursues in the second half Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 in Morton.

Three-headed monster

Carl Whitaker ran 10 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns, Brett Michel rushed 12 times for 94 yards and a touchdown and Hart had 15 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown as the Potters pummeled Richwoods 45-13 in a nonconference game.

Morton coach Tim Brilley was impressed with his team's offensive production. The Potters ran for 294 of their 345 total yards on offense and were a perfect 4-for-4 on third-down conversions.

"We have some talented kids who can run the ball and a strong offensive line," Brilley said. "I thought Jude (Hart) did a good job reading plays, and he had some nice passes (he was 5-for-8 for 51 yards).

"He's calm, cool and collected back there."

Hart, who is replacing graduated quarterback Layne Kaufman, understands the Potters' offensive philosophy.

"We're Morton. We're a run-based team," he said. "But I'd like to think I can throw the ball, too, when we need to. The game is faster than I'm used to, but I'm enjoying it."

One of Morton's fourth-down conversions against Richwoods was a 15-yard strike on a rollout from Hart to GB Kruzick.

Michel scored on a 10-yard run on the next play and the Potters went ahead for good 17-13 with 7:12 left in the second quarter.

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Morton running backs Conner Hines, left, and Carl Whitaker celebrate one of Whitaker's second-half touchdowns against Richwoods on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 in Morton.

Bouncing back from a big loss

Morton (1-1) was on the other end of a pummeling last week in its season opener. The Potters lost 51-14 at Mahomet-Seymour (No. 3 in Class 5A). They felt that had to make a statement against Richwoods.

"It seemed like people were counting us out even though we lost last week to a very good team," Hart said. "We needed to come out (Friday) and prove we're a good team."

Brilley said he had no doubt his team was going to respond positively to the lopsided loss to Mahomet-Seymour.

"The guys didn't flinch," he said.

Richwoods (0-2) hurt its chances to beat Morton by being flagged for 13 penalties for 164 yards. The Knights collected penalties for everything from a sideline violation to grabbing the face mask to having an ineligible receiver downfield.

But they led 13-10 after Greg Burnside threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to David Webster on the first play of the second quarter.

Webster was wide open and juggled the ball before hauling it in.

Richwoods' other TD came on the first play of its second possession of the game. Kaizon Davis ran untouched 85 yards up the middle.

"Both of Richwoods' touchdowns were 100% on us," Brilley said. "We made some adjustments on defense after those TDs, got some turnovers (three fumbles, including a 65-yard scoop and score in the third quarter by Conner Hines), and shut them out the rest of the game.

"I really liked how we came out in the second half (Morton led 24-13 at halftime). We had to finish them off. Good teams do that."

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'What happened?'

Morton tacklers swarm Richwoods' David Webster in the second half Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 in Morton.

In a quiet huddle after the game, Richwoods coach Jim Ulrich asked his team, "What happened?" after it took the 13-10 lead.

"That was a rhetorical question," Ulrich said later. "It's all about our mindset for us, how we respond to adversity. These kids were punched in the mouth a lot last year (the Knights were 1-8).

"The game of life is the same as the football field. You're going to have adversity. You have to respond t it. There are still some wins for us out there this season. We're going to coach up these kids and figure things out."

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or Follow him on Twitter @SpartansSteve.