Trojans show grit, resiliency in 23-21 loss to SEP

Marcus Morgan threw for over 300 passing yards as the football team battled back from a thirteen-point first half deficit before falling to Southeast Polk in a drama-filled game.


Becky Millmeyer

Quarterback Marcus Morgan ’21 scrambles outside of the pocket during a scrimmage against Dubuque Hempstead at Dalzell Field in Dubuque on August 23.

The Trojans may not have walked out of Pleasant Hill with a win, but they can certainly walk out of Friday’s loss against Southeast Polk with pride.

The football team lost to Southeast Polk 23-21 on Sept. 13, despite 14 catches from Grahm Goering ’21, strong defensive plays from Mason Applegate ’22 and three field goals from Owen Smith ’21.

Early on it looked as though the Trojans’ were back on their heels for the second straight week, as they found themselves trailing 16-3 early in the second quarter.

Marcus Morgan ’21 was surgical on his first offensive drive, going 4-5 for 60 yards while connecting with Tate Crane ’20, Eric Torres ’21 and Goering for first downs.

Becky Millmeyer
Receiver Grahm Goering ’21 looks for a hole in the defense while Marchaun Hoover ’20 looks for someone to block during a scrimmage against Dubuque Hempstead at Dalzell Field in Dubuque on August 23.

The defense struggled to stop the Rams’ running game in the first half, continually giving up five and six-yard runs up the middle. On the bright side, Tyuss Bell ’21 and Torres were tremendous in secondary coverage, halting the Southeast Polk passing attack.

Morgan would find Goering for two more first downs in the second quarter before ultimately settling for a field goal to end the half trailing 16-6.

Head coach Garrett Hartwig must have lit a fire under his players in the locker room because the offense came out firing to start the third quarter as Marchaun Hoover ’20 picked up a first down run near midfield to move the chains. The running game made very small strides tonight from the first two weeks of the season, but progress is progress. Instead of rushing for zero or one-yard runs, Hoover was pushing through for three or four yards.

After Goering hauled in two more first downs, Owen Smith ’21 made his third field goal of the game from 37 yards out to make it a one-score game at 16-9.

Applegate made a number of plays in the third quarter, including an athletic pass deflection in the backfield on a crucial third down stop. The teams would jostle for field position throughout the rest of the third quarter until Morgan fired a bullet down the West sideline, hauled in by Goering as he tapped his feet to stay in bounds.

Morgan orchestrated the rest of the drive from the red zone, scrambling for a first down before handing off to Grant Henderson ’20 for the Trojans’ first touchdown of the game.

After an offsides call on the extra point attempt, the Trojans elected to go for two trailing 16-15. Morgan’s pass in the flat fell incomplete, and the Trojan defense took the field with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Over the course of the next seven minutes, the Rams’ offense would grind out the clock, daring the West defense to stop their rushing attack. The eventual Southeast Polk touchdown with three minutes remaining put the Trojans behind 23-15.

Crane produced favorable field position with an impressive kickoff return, setting the stage for Morgan to make one last push to tie the game. Quick-hit out routes to Crane and Goering moved the chains and kept the clock from running as the Trojan offense inched its way towards the Ram’s end zone.

Facing a 3rd and 20 Morgan fired a bullet pass to Crane across the middle. The pass shot off Crane’s hands and into the arms of Goering, who reached past the first down marker.

A couple plays later Morgan found Goering on the one-yard line for a first down, but the clock operator let the time run out. The Rams initially celebrated before realizing that the Trojans had one final play with six seconds left, which they used to push Morgan into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run.

Unfortunately, the Trojans could not convert the final two-point conversion and fell to the Rams 23-21 in one of the more exciting games of the early Iowa high school football season.

Morgan showcased his skill set as a legitimate Division-I quarterback, displaying impressive poise and accuracy all night despite facing pressure on nearly every throw.

After last week’s missed field goal attempt, fans were beginning to doubt whether Smith had the leg to kick at the varsity level. Smith silenced the critics tonight, going three-for-three from 27, 38 and 37 yards.

The defense looked very impressive at times in the second half but still needs to buckle down inside where they offered little resistance to the Ram’s rushing attack.

The 0-3 start may look abysmal to casual fans, but don’t lose hope quite yet. The team has played 3A powerhouse North ScottĀ and two 4A top-ten teams in Bettendorf and Southeast Polk. With a lighter district schedule and a heavy chip on their shoulder, 6-3 is a very reasonable record prediction for the Trojans.

The football team will be seeking their first win at home against Dubuque Senior on Friday, Sept. 20.