Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Coming off a 10-7 loss and without its starting quarterback West High was in need of an offensive spark.
The Trojans found one in sophomore Marcus Morgan.
Morgan passed for 207 yards and a touchdown in his first career start filling in for injured senior Joey Kuehn as Class 4A No. 8 West High rebounded from last week’s loss to Bettendorf with a 31-17 win over Southeast Polk (0-3) at Trojan Field.
“His poise was great. His first varsity start against a quality opponent, the kid has ice in his veins,” West High coach Garrett Hartwig said of Morgan “He’s a good player.”
Morgan fired a touchdown pass on the Trojans’ second drive of the game, a 40-yard bullet to senior Justin Thomas, and West High (2-1) never trailed.
The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Morgan connected on 16-of-26 passes in his varsity debut helping West High score a season-high 31 points.
“There was a tiny bit of butterflies at the beginning but that first touchdown kind of broke the ice for me.” Morgan said. “I settled in after that.”
It didn’t take long for Morgan to show he was up to the task as a varsity start.
A pair of penalties contributed to a three-and-out on the Trojans’ first offensive series and Morgan misfired on a first down pass on West High’s second possession.
Facing a third-and-12, Morgan fired a perfect strike to Thomas who caught the ball in stride and went 40 yards to put West High up 7-0 less than eight minutes into the game.
“That was something we had scouted all week was how they were going to guard the slot guy,” Thomas said. “When I saw that he was going to come out on me I knew I had to bust it inside and Marcus found me and it worked out perfectly.”
The early score was a sigh of relief for the West High offense and its rookie quarterback.
West High managed just 217 total yards in a loss to second-ranked Bettendorf last week with 90 coming on the Trojans’ lone scoring play, a 90-yard touchdown grab by Jalen Gaudet.
“It was great to find our rhythm early after last week,” Morgan said. “That was a tough game offensively so it was good to get that taste out of our mouth and find our rhythm right away.”
West High wouldn’t put the game away until the fourth quarter but never let Southeast Polk pull even.
A 14-play, 65-yard touchdown set up by a Noah Aanestad fumble recovery ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Will Hoeft that put West High up 14-0 with 5:11 left in the first half.
Southeast Polk scored 10 unanswered points to end the half as Gavin Williams ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run and Logan Sunvold drilled a 43-yard field goal with :44 left before halftime.
“These boys played hard but we are still a long way away from where we want to be and that’s exciting,” Hartwig said. “We will come back tomorrow and learn from our mistakes and I know we can still play better.”
West High took the momentum back with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns courtesy of a pair of huge plays by senior Jason Strunk.
Strunk ripped off a 45-yard gain on a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from the West High 31 yard line to set up a 1-yard Landon Green TD dive.
“Coach just said ‘get it’ and that’s all we did, we practice that in practice and we just executed,” Strunk said of the fake punt. “It was extremely important, we needed that momentum to get the game going and put it away and we did it.”
Strunk made it 28-10 when he read a screen pass, picked off a Josiah Cole throw and went 7 yards untouched into the end zone.
“I just saw it was a little too easy to get through the line, that’s what I did is just noticed it and stayed still,” Strunk said. “Coaches tell us every week don’t rush.”
Thomas equaled his season catch total with three grabs for 59 yards as Morgan connected passes to five different players.
With Southeast Polk focused on slowing Gaudet West High had four other players with better than 23 yards receiving.
Junior Tate Crane had a team-high six grabs for 69 yards while Aanestad had three grabs for 23 yards.
“As soon as I heard Marcus was going to be the starting quarterback I immediately had 100 percent confidence that it was going to go smoothly,” Thomas said. “I know Marcus and I know he can transition into anything at the varsity level at the varsity level smoothly.”
First downs 12 14
Rushes-yards 36-103 30-208
Comp-Att-Int 16-26-0 14-29-2
Passing yards 207 96
Total yards 310 304
Punts-Avg. 4-36.8 6-24.7
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 5-40 5-30
West High 7 7 14 3 – 31
Southeast Polk 0 10 7 0 – 17
ICW – Justin Thomas 40 pass from Marcus Morgan (Josh Jasek kick)
ICW – Will Hoeft 1 run (Jasek kick)
SEP – Gavin Williams 71 run (Logan Sunvold kick)
SEP – Sunvold 43 field goal
ICW – Landon Green 1 run (Jasek kick)
ICW – Jason Strunk 7 interception return (Jasek kick)
SEP – Josiah Cole 75 run (Sunvold kick)
ICW – Jasek 40 field goal
RUSHING – ICW: Jason Strunk 2-44, Xarminto Lubuelo 13-35, Peter Breitbach 6-16, Marcus Morgan 7-11, Will Hoeft 2-2, Jalen Gaudet 1-2, Landon Green 3-(-1), Tate Crane 1-(-1), Team 1-(-5). SEP: Josiah Cole 10-112, Gavin Williams 15-106, James Simon 1-6, Isaiah Wagner 1-1, Jackson Schneider 2-0, Team 1-(-17).
PASSING – ICW: Marcus Morgan 16-26-0 207. SEP: Josiah Cole 14-29-2 96.
RECEIVING – ICW: Tate Crane 6-69, Justin Thomas 3-59, Noah Aanestad 3-23, Jalen Gaudet 2-28, Will Hoeft 2-28. SEP: Jackson Schneider 6-45, Dylan Travis 4-30, Jay Combs 2-13, Jace Christenson 1-9, Justin Brindley 1-(-1)
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