Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
Falcons rally in fourth quarter to slip past Tigers in first round
DEL MAR HEIGHTS – Torrey Pines trailed Morse through three quarters in the first round of the Division II playoffs on Friday night, but the fourth quarter belonged to the host Falcons. Eighth-seeded Torrey Pines scored nine unanswered points in the final quarter to upend the ninth-seeded Tigers for a 16-11 comeback victory.
“It was a hard-fought game by both teams,” said Torrey Pines linebacker Aaron Small. “We had ups and we had downs, but we kept coming at them and we never let up.”
Morse led 11-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, and 50 seconds into the quarter Torrey Pines (5-6) cut the Tigers lead to one on a Jack Mitchell 36-yard field goal. After a Morse punt, the Falcons drove 55 yards to take a 16-11 lead on a David Bagby two-yard outside run with five minutes remaining.
“We were running up the middle quite a lot, they started to key on me and they were coming in hot,” Bagby said. “Coach called a toss and I just followed my blocks and they pushed me in.”
Morse (6-4) took the ensuing drive to the Torrey Pines 39-yard line, but on first-and-10 the ball was snapped over the head of Tigers quarterback Jamal Anderson for an 11-yard loss. Two plays later Anderson tried to extend a play by scrambling, but Small stripped him from behind and Torrey Pines recovered the loose ball at the Morse 33-yard line.
“I was actually looking for a wide receiver to guard but when I saw him scrambling I knew he was going to try and get the first down on his own,” Small said. “When he bounced it outside I contained, and when he turned around I knew it was my chance.”
Small’s strip sealed the comeback victory for Torrey Pines. Morse got the ball back deep in its own territory with 31 seconds left, but the Tigers couldn’t put together any last-second heroics.
“If we didn’t stop them on that play they could score at any point,” Small said. “I knew I had to make that tackle.”
Both offenses struggled early, and in the second quarter Torrey Pines scored first when offensive lineman Jake Ashby recovered an Andrew Perkins fumble in the end zone. Despite missing starting running backs Andrew Fargo and Chase Pickwell, the Falcons had a 7-0 lead at halftime.
“We started off a little rocky,” Bagby said. “We needed to get our feet under ourselves and kids found their positions and made adjustments.”
Just before halftime the southeast light tower at Ed Burke Field went out and never came back on, obscuring a quarter of the field for the remainder of the contest. On the opening drive of the second half Morse’s running game shined brightly, as the Tigers moved the ball 80 yards and took an 8-7 lead on a 21-yard Tre Roberts run and successful fake field goal two-point conversion.
“We started running the ball inside,” said Morse head coach Tracy McNair. "They had two big tackles outside that played good games and we thought we could work the middle.”
Late in the third quarter Roberts sprung a 54-yard run down to the Torrey Pines one-yard line to set the Tigers up for what appeared to be a touchdown. But on the next play an illegal substitution penalty backed Morse up, the Tigers eventually settled for a 30-yard Christian Burger field goal to take an 11-7 lead with 1:10 left in the quarter.
“That was a discipline issue,” McNair said. “The kid that went in the game was hurt all week and he didn’t practice, so he went on the field at the wrong time, we had 12 people on the field and it was a penalty.”
In the fourth quarter, Torrey Pines scored on its first two drives to pull out the playoff victory. The Falcons had lost two straight games entering the postseason.
“I saw a lot of will tonight and a lot of our players stepped up and showed heart,” Bagby said. “A lot of people in this situation would have backed down, but not us – tonight we really came together.”
Torrey Pines advances to play top-seeded Helix in the Division II quarterfinals next Friday. The Highlanders are currently ranked No. 1 in the section.
“Helix is a great team and we know that – we respect them,” Bagby said. “We’re going to study our film and we’re going to fight.”
Morse made its third straight postseason appearance, but came up empty handed in the first round for the third year in a row. Since McNair took over the program in 2009, the Tigers have won at least six games each season.
“It was a very successful season,” McNair said. “Our team played a lot better, there are a lot of things we can do better as far as discipline within the program, but all in all I think our kids did alright.”
Pictured: Torrey Pines quarterback Andrew Perkins under center against Morse