STERLING -- There wasn't much the Geneseo Maple Leaf football team could do. The Leafs trapped Sterling three times on fourth down, chasing QB Tanner Morse in the backfield only to have the shifty Warrior complete all three fourth downs.|
The last of those led to a back-breaking TD which led to Sterling knocking off the Leafs 24-20, and forcing the Leafs to win out to have a chance at the playoffs.
Morse's last fourth down heroics were the most spectacular. In the third quarter, with Geneseo leading 14-13, Morse had the snap go over his head and 15 yards behind him. He rushed to pick it up as Leafs swarmed around him. Morse ran to the sideline to avoid tackles and chucked the ball downfield where Mitchell Wharff leaped into the air and pulled it down for a first down.
Six plays later, Morse rushed in for 6 to give the Golden Warriors the lead they didn't surrender.
The Leafs (3-4, 1-2 NIB12W) got down early for the second week in a row, giving up a pair of first-quarter scores, including a 4th-and-14, 35-yard TD pass and catch from Morse to Wharff.
In fact, Sterling looked like it was going to slam the door early when it had the ball on Geneseo's 1-yard line, but a penalty and missed field goal gave the Leafs new life.
Two plays later, Rayce Singbush raced 72 yards for a score and the Green Machine was in business.
At the start of the second half, Cameron Panicucci recovered a fumble to get Geneseo the ball back. Singbush again sprinted for the end zone but this time he was tripped up and fumbled the ball. As the ball rolled forward, teammate Jon Solberg was there to jump on it in the end zone to give the Leafs their first lead of the game.
Sterling turned the tables the next time the Leafs had the ball by forcing their own fumble, then marched 44 yards on 16 plays taking up more than six minutes of clock and converted two fourth downs to take the lead for good.
"It happened all night, pick the fourth down you want to talk about, and they converted," Geneseo coach Larry Johnsen Jr. said. "They won the battle of big plays."
Geneseo ran just 10 plays in the first 19:30 of the second half, as Sterling did a tremendous job of keeping the Leaf defense on the field.
"We thought we should've been up 20-0, but credit Geneseo with making a stand," Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer said. "But we responded, and I'm really proud of this group. We haven't been playing the way we're capable of but tonight we did."
Morse was all over the field for the Warriors, rushing for 101 yards and passing for 70 in what should set up a Sterling-Ottawa conference championship game in Sterling in Week 9.
Singbush carried the ball tremendously, racking up 119 yards and a score on just 10 carries, but the Leafs only were able to run 44 offensive plays. QB Luke Snyder ran for just 24 yards after going over the century mark last week in Ottawa, and threw for just 38 yards and had an interception on the last play of the game.
Time of possession told the tale as Sterling held the ball for 30:31, while Geneseo, usually dominant in the category win or lose, had possession for just 17:29.
The Leafs now return home for must-win games against Streator (0-7) and LaSalle-Peru (3-4) to have a chance at the playoffs, but more importantly to continue the streak of 49 straight years with a winning record.
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