McCONNELSVILLE - If it were a boxing match instead of a football game, the first two rounds clearly went to the Morgan Raiders.
But the knockout belonged to the Maysville Panthers.
After trailing 21-14 midway through the second quarter the Panthers rattled off 38 unanswered points to take a 52-21 victory in the final week of the regular season in McConnelsville Friday evening.
KEVIN PIERSON Special to The Times
Morgan quarterback Hayden Matheney (2) flees from the pursuit of Maysville's Jordan Hayes (9) during the first quarter of a football game in McConnelsville Friday night. Maysville beat Morgan 52-21.
"Morgan's got some great kids and offensively they've been playing well," said Maysville football coach Craig Clarke. "They were making some plays. They smacked us in the mouth. They need the credit."
Those early punches weren't nearly enough to take down the Panthers, who have qualified for the Ohio state playoffs for the first time in school history with a 9-1 record.
"I'm proud of the way we played. We just had some turnovers that hurt us. Even the fumbles we didn't lose, it's still a lost play," lamented Morgan football coach Nate Smith.
Maysville 52, Morgan 21
Maysville 7 24 14 7 - 52
Morgan 14 7 0 0 - 21
May: C.J. Harris 5 pass from Jacob Miller (Nate Vallee kick) 10:31
Mor: Justin Head 6 run (Riley Newton kick) 7:58
Mor: Kaleb Driggs 14 run (Newton kick) 1:46
May: Eli Chambers 64 run (Vallee kick) 11:48
Mor: Head 16 run (Newton kick) 5:38
May: Jordan Hayes 30 run (Vallee kick) 5:17
May: Hayes 8 run (Vallee kick) 2:36
May: Vallee 37 field goal 0
May: Harris 29 run (Vallee kick) 9:42
May: Dylan Evans 80 run (Vallee kick) 6:50
May: Chambers 10 run (Vallee kick) 7:45
First downs 11; Rushes/yds 40-360; Passing yds 96; Passing (comp/att/TD/int) 4-6-1-0; Total yds 456; Penalties/yds 8-85; Punts/avg. 3-32.3; Fumbles/lost 1/0
First downs 13; Rushes/yds 44-288; Passing yds 0; Passing (comp/att/TD/int) 0-3-0-0; Total yds 288; Penalties/yds 3-40; Punts/avg. 5-35.8; Fumbles/lost 6/2
Maysville: Rushing: C.J. Harris 6-60, TD; Dylan Evans 7-86, TD; Eli Chambers 5-80, 2 TDs; Jordan Hayes 14-129, 2 TDs; Jacob Miller 5-(-1); Logan Bash 2-5; Chase Roberts 1-1; Passing: Jacob Miller 4-6-96 yds, TD; Receiving: C.J. Harris 1-5, TD; Justin Wilson 2-81; Dylan Evans 1-10
Morgan: Rushing: Hayden Matheney 13-46; Justin Head 16-116, 2 TDs; Kaleb Driggs 9-29, TD; Austin Campbell 11-76; Dylan Mayle 1-10; Jerome Mayle 1-5; James Vickers 1-(-6); Mason Edgell 1-(-5); Michael Apperson 1-17; Passing: Hayden Matheney 0-2; Austin Campbell 0-1
Morgan did plenty of putting the football on the ground, with six fumbles in the game though the Raiders only lost two of them.
Still, for the early going it was a smash-mouth football game where the Raiders were well at-home.
Maysville took the game's opening possession 68 yards to the endzone, with quarterback Jacob Miller completing a 46-yard pass to Justin Wilson. That play setup the first touchdown, with Miller finding C.J. Harris on a playaction for a 5-yard score with 10:31 in the opening stanza.
The Raiders, however, had the answer on the strength of their legs. Morgan attempted just three passes in the game, and all 288 yards of offense came via the ground game.
Behind a pair of big runs from senior Austin Campbell, the Raiders covered 59 yards to find the endzone as Justin Head scored from six yards out to even the score with 7:58 to play.
Forcing a punt on the Panthers' next possession, Morgan took its first lead of the game when Kaleb Driggs scored on a 14-yard run to cap a nine play, 70-yard drive.
The Panthers tied the game on the first play of the second quarter when Eli Chambers took a reverse 64 yards to the endzone with 11:48 before halftime, but one more time the Raiders had the counter-punch to go on the offensive.
Following a turnover on downs, the Raiders again covered 59 yards to the endzone as Head scored his second TD of the contest, this time from six yards out, to put Morgan ahead 21-14 with 5:58 in the opening half.
From there, it was all about the Panthers, with big gains on the ground from a balanced offensive attack that had four backs rush for over 60 yards.
"We got base blocked and couldn't get off the block," Smith said. "We couldn't even slow them down the second half."
The Panthers would turn their final three possessions of the first half into 17 points, with Nate Vallee's 37-yard field goal as time expired in the half setting the margin, 32-21, at the break.
Giving up 178 yards in the first half of play, Maysville allowed just 110 in the second half and just once to Morgan get the ball into Panther territory after the break.
"We just had a little attitude adjustment at halftime on defense. I was glad they responded to that," Clarke said.
In a case of deja vu, the Panthers again scored on their first possession to start the second half. Instead of through the air, Harris tallied six points on the ground as he scampered 29 yards to paydirt for a 38-21 advantage with 9:42 in the third quarter.
Down by three scores, the Raiders knew they needed points and began marching down the field.
The turnover bug bit when it hurt most, as Head was stripped of the football while carrying defenders inside the Panther' 20-yard line.
One play later, Maysville clinched the ball game when Dylan Evans ran 80 yards to the endzone.
"That's those bounce-back plays we've struggled with," Smith said.
Maysville added the final score of the game on its first possession of the fourth quarter, as Chambers capped off a nine play, 71-yard drive with a 10-yard run into the endzone with 7:45 to play.
The Raiders end the season as the owner of a 2-8 record while Maysville will play again in Week 11.
Playoff schedules were not determined as of Friday evening, but the Panthers held the six seed in Div. III Region 11 and will most likely face either No. 3 seed Steubenville or No. 4 seed Dover on the road.
"It's great that we've got another week to play," Clarke said.