Defense responds for Trojans’ first win of season

Marcus Morgan '21 led the Trojans to their first victory of the season 24-7 over Pleasant Valley with two touchdown passes.

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Defense responds for Trojans’ first win of season

Linebacker Grant Henderson '20 and defensive back Tate Crane '20 line up on defense during a scrimmage against Dubuque Hempstead at Dalzell Field in Dubuque on August 23.

Linebacker Grant Henderson '20 and defensive back Tate Crane '20 line up on defense during a scrimmage against Dubuque Hempstead at Dalzell Field in Dubuque on August 23.

Becky Millmeyer

Linebacker Grant Henderson '20 and defensive back Tate Crane '20 line up on defense during a scrimmage against Dubuque Hempstead at Dalzell Field in Dubuque on August 23.

Becky Millmeyer

Becky Millmeyer

Linebacker Grant Henderson '20 and defensive back Tate Crane '20 line up on defense during a scrimmage against Dubuque Hempstead at Dalzell Field in Dubuque on August 23.

It was worth the wait.

Head coach Garrett Hartwig and his young squad had to wait until week five for their first win of the season, but they certainly made the most of the rough conditions Friday night.

The Trojans collected themselves after a 7-0 deficit to run up 24 straight points, including two touchdown passes by Marcus Morgan ’21 and a scoop and score from Marchaun Hoover ’20, to best the Spartans 24-7.

Defensive coordinator Tyler Meade was finally able to extract the potential that has been oozing from his defense since the beginning of the season.

Pleasant Valley commanded the field during their first drive, shredding the Trojan defense with their signature triple-option attack.

West High fans were still shaking their heads as Morgan unloaded an absolute strike across the middle to Tate Crane ’20 for an 80-yard touchdown on the first offensive play for the Trojans.

Owen Aanestad
Marcus Morgan ’21 throws the ball downfield in a game against Bettendorf at Trojan Field on Sept. 6.

Grant Henderson ’20 and the rest of the defense responded with toughness and tenacity after their first-drive mishap. Gang tackling, pass breakups and tackles for loss piled up as the Spartans struggled to move the ball into Trojan territory.

On offense, Tyler Halverson ’21 made a big third-down catch for the Trojans, replacing Alex McKay ’21 (ACL) at tight end.

After a Pleasant Valley missed field, one of three in the game, Morgan and the offense orchestrated a tactical march into the Spartan red zone. Tyuss Bell ’21 and Marchaun Hoover ’20 were running downhill, each picking up a first down on the drive. Morgan sneaked a fourth and one over the marker in addition to hitting Grahm Goering ’21 for a first down catch.

A few plays later Morgan found Goering again, this one for a touchdown, to give the Trojans their first halftime lead of the season, 14-7.

Despite the lead, the first half was filled with sloppy plays and disorganization. Morgan’s punt had been blocked and the offense was jumping often resulting in a couple of false starts.

The second half would be a different story.

With light rain and lightning storms threating, the Trojan defense came out with fire in their eyes. After another missed field goal from Pleasant Valley the Trojans drove the field again to set up Owen Smith ’21 for a 35-yard FG.

Straight through, 17-7 West.

Before the Trojans could conquer the city of Sparta, Pleasant Valley made one last charge to tighten up the score in the fourth quarter. The Spartans lined up for a field goal and, you guessed it, another miss.

This time the kick was blocked by the West High defense before being scooped up by Hoover for a fumble recovery touchdown. Undoubtedly the highest point of the season so far, the pure joy exuding from the West High sideline after Hoover’s touchdown was as rewarding for the players as it was for the fans.

Owen Aanestad
Marchaun Hoover runs after a catch against Bettendorf at Trojan Field on Sept.6.

The Trojan defense collected yet another stop, and Morgan would kneel the ball at the one-yard line to run out the clock, a classy move by coach Hartwig to say the least.

As the team ran off the field into the locker room, the energy on the field had transformed from weeks past. This was no mere win, this was the win.

A loss to the Spartans would have put the Trojans at 0-5, surely out of playoff contention and at a loss for motivation for the rest of the season.

With the Trojans’ win over district rival Pleasant Valley, the team takes on a very manageable district slate of Linn Mar (3-2), Davenport North (3-2), Muscatine (1-4) and City (2-3) to close out the season.

Spirits are high, and for good reason.

After throwing for two first-half touchdowns, Morgan played the role of game manager perfectly, putting his team in the red zone twice in the second half while working the clock.

Hoover came into the season with high expectations and had been underwhelming over the team’s first four games. Tonight, Hoover showed his big-play ability while also contributing for a number of first down runs. With added confidence, expect Hoover to play up to his potential during the second half of the season.

Not enough can be said about the West High defense and their toughness. Gameplanning against the triple-option is no easy feat, but the Trojans displayed mature discipline while staying aggressive on fourth-down stops and tackles for loss.

Next week’s highly anticipated homecoming game against Linn-Mar will be played on Oct. 4.

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