How Dunlap overcame wind and rain to reign over Morton in a furious overtime comeback
MORTON — The Morton football team built a big lead in the first half amid wind, steady rain, and cold that turned players' breaths into a steam cloud that hung over Carper Field.
Then the rain went away and Dunlap's offense replaced it with a torrent of passes to bring the Eagles back from a 21-point second-half deficit and hold on for a 35-34 overtime victory in a key Mid-Illini Conference game.
"God was on our side with that weather," Dunlap receiver Graham Glover said, grinning. "That rain in the first half kept us in a running game plan. The weather cleared up at halftime and we were able to do what we do."
What Glover did was catch 10 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Eagles quarterback Madyn Burke threw for 328 yards and three TDs on 15 of 26 passing. He got 223 of those air yards in the second half after the rain stopped.
But Burke's biggest moment came in overtime when he checked out of a passing play on fourth-and goal from the 6. He ran up the middle, launched himself and landed with the ball a foot across the goal line for a 35-28 lead.
"That play (in overtime) was supposed to be a pass, a comeback route to the corner for Graham," Burke said. "But we got to the line and I saw they switched their coverage and there was a linebacker alone in front of me. So I went for it, just got that ball over."
Morton answered on the first play of its overtime possession, sending running back Brett Michel 10 yards up the middle for an easy TD.
"The momentum Dunlap had, we knew in OT we were going for two," Morton coach Tim Brilley said, after watching Michel blast almost untouched up the middle for a TD.
Morton fed the ball to Michel for a two-point run attempt, and he was bottled up at the line, game over. Dunlap charged off the field and celebrated in the far end zone.
An Eagle from Morton, and a heartbreak
It could be argued the best two players on the field were from Morton on Friday. Problem was, one of them was in a Dunlap uniform.
"I was actually born in Morton and lived in Morton until I was 2," Glover said. "We moved to Dunlap and I started playing JFL. My quarterback was Madyn Burke.
"He's been throwing passes to me since we were kids."
When Burke connected to Glover for a 66-yard TD pass to start the comeback from 21-0 at 7:26 of the third quarter, it marked the ninth TD connection of the season for the tandem.
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That other Morton star? That would be Potters running back Brett Michel. He had a massive game, running 35 times for 237 yards and four TDs. He gained more yards than he had in all of his previous games combined this season.
Michel ran 23 times for 169 yards and two scores in the second half. But his night ended in heartbreak.
With the game tied at 28, Morton drove 64 yards on 11 plays and was sitting first-and-goal at the Dunlap 8 with 74 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't kick (a field goal) at that point because we were worried we'd leave them with too much time," Brilley said. "We ran another play."
They handed it to Michel, and he fumbled it away at the 6 with 48.2 seconds left.
Game-planning under the bleachers
Dunlap knew it faced a challenge when it walked on to Carper Field in driving rain and wind at kickoff, weather that persisted through the first half.
"It's not a great feeling when you are a passing team and you're in rain and wind like that," Dunlap coach Brett Cazalet said. "We went under the bleachers and started walking through (run plays) stuff we hadn't practiced all week. It was a tough situation.
"Then the rain went away and we got back to our offense. Glover and Burke, we've had a lot of great combinations over the years at Dunlap. But what they did tonight … tremendous."
How it unfolded
• Morton senior linebacker Blake Shoemaker poured in and blocked a Dunlap punt at the 21 with 6:09 left in the first quarter. "We made some big plays, built a big lead," Shoemaker said. "But I think we got a little ahead of ourselves. I was pretty hyped up, but I knew the job wasn't finished."
• Glover hauled in a 61-yard pass from Burke at the Morton 21 in the first quarter, but the drive later died on the first of two sacks by Potters defensive end Nick Steider.
• Morton followed that with a 10-play drive capped by Michel's 7-yard TD run for 7-0 at 9:02 of the second quarter.
• Dunlap's answering drive ended in a punt, on which the snap was fumbled and Morton got the ball at the Eagles 11 with 6:20 left in the half.
• The Potters ran it down to the 4, faced fourth down and lined up for a field goal, then called timeout and put their offense back on the field. After an offsides penalty, Michel ran it across from the 2 for a 14-0 lead with 4:26 left in the half.
• Dunlap finished the half with an 11-play, 79-yard drive on which Burke was stopped a foot from the goal line as time expired on a Morton goal line stand.
"That drive came so close, and it gave us a little confidence," Cazalet said. "Then that rain stopped … We came out of the half down 21-0 and a lot of teams might have been done.
"But we have seniors on this team fighting for their football lives."
• Morton rolled to a 21-0 lead at 7:44 of the third quarter when quarterback Jude Hart connected with Micah Wong for a 37-yard TD pass.
• Burke hit Glover for a 66-yard TD toss to get the Eagles on the board with 7:26 left in the third quarter.
• Morton had the ball for one play after that, and it was a fumbled exchange that Dunlap recovered at the 38.
• Burke then hit Gabe Munoz for a 38-yard TD pass at 6:47 to cut the deficit to 21-14. Two touchdowns on two plays in 39 seconds.
• Burke hit Evan Marmion for a 16-yard TD pass to tie the game at 21 with 11:52 left in the fourth quarter.
• Michel carried eight times on Morton's answering drive, and capped it with a four-yard TD run for a 28-21 lead with 8:30 left.
• But Glover pulled Dunlap back into a tie with 4:45 left in the fourth quarter when he took an end-around 15 yards for a TD.
• Morton drove to the 6 before Michel's fumble ended it in the final minute, and the game went to overtime.
"We lost two one-on-one battles and the game came down to three or four plays," Brilley said. "We let them hang around in the game too long."
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. He can be reached at 686-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.