Fort Dale Academy and visiting Morgan Academy held class during the first round of Friday night’s state playoff game.
Old school football.
On a field soaked from earlier rain showers both offenses went conservative, junking the forward pass in favor of a power running game and stout defense.
In the end, it was Fort Dale emerging with the 10-0 win, led by a running back tandem that combined for 201 yards on the ground and a pair of big defensive plays in the second half.
Tailback Jeffery Stead forced a fumble and recovered it, which set up a 19-yard field goal by Sean McKeague with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter, breaking a scoreless tie at halftime. On the Senators’ ensuing possession lineman Kendall Gibson then crashed in to take the ball away from a Morgan running back.
Fort Dale ball at the Morgan 24.
Daniel Nolan’s seven-yard touchdown run iced the game with 3:41 left in the third.
For Stead, the turnover was his way of redeeming himself for a losing the football a few minutes earlier. After halftime, Fort Dale had marched to the Senators’ nine-yard line when Stead coughed up the ball.
“I was pretty upset about it,” said Stead, who finished with 107 rushing yards on 18 carries. “So I had to just come back and try to make a play and luckily I did to make up for it.”
The Eagles were starting to look snake bit on offense after Stead’s fumble. A similar drive had ended in the second quarter when Morgan had stopped Fort Dale on fourth and one at the three-yard line.
Gibson then provided the play that would prove to be a nail in Morgan’s coffin. The senior basically stripped the ball and took off up field before he was hauled down.
“We’d been slanting all night and they were running the triple option,” Gibson said. “I just took the handoff. It’s a huge win for us.”
Eagles’ coach James “Speed” Sampley said both plays were big.
“Sometimes the ball bounces funny and tonight it bounced our way,” he said. “Morgan played good defense, but we played good defense as well. A win’s a win. We’ll take this one and move on.”
Fort Dale held Morgan to 97 yards of total offense. Each team completed only a pair of passes.
One, by Fort Dale’s Dustin Till, was intercepted in the fourth quarter.
“That was his coach being dumb,” said Sampley about the play choice.
Down 10-0, the Senators moved into Fort Dale territory, but Austin Smitherman was stopped at the Eagles’ 26-yard line on fourth and three.
The win also avenged an earlier 14-9 loss to Morgan in a preseason contest.
“They’re our rivals,” said Gibson. “We’ve played them in the playoffs and won and we’ve played them in the playoffs and lost. It feels good to win.”
Nolan added 74 yards on the ground for Fort Dale.
Daniel Lowe led the Eagles with 17 tackles, while Hunter Smith added 14 tackles.
Fort Dale travels in the second round to play Bessemer Academy, 25-12 winners over Lee-Scott on Friday night.