The Mercer County Golden Eagles survived a turnover laden game Saturday to defeat the Morrison Mustangs, 25-14 and advanced to the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
The Golden Eagles got off to a hot start with a six-play scoring drive at the beginning of the game. Tanner Matlick completed three passes on the drive including one for 52 yards to Payton Holmes. Matlick scored himself on a quarterback keeper with 10:22 remaining in the first quarter. Teryima Manta's kick made the score 7-0.
Morrison answered right back with an eight play scoring drive. The Morrison offense opened up the drive with seven straight running plays which lured the Golden Eagle pass defense to sleep. Mustang quarterback Matt Wilkens found Danny Willis wide open on a fourth down and one play scoring from 35 yards out. At 6:11 Morrison tied the score at 7-7.
The score remained deadlocked at 7-7 until midway through the second period. With the running game stymied Matlick took to the air hitting Tyson Nylin and Holmes on passes of 11, 22 and 17 yards. The final pass to Holmes was for 17 yards and a touchdown. The kick failed and the Golden Eagles led 13-7 at the 8:48 mark.
The next series of events was a mess as the ball was turned over three times on consecutive plays from scrimmage.
On a first down and 10 play from their own 35 yard line Golden Eagle Tyson Nylin knocked loose the ball from Morrison running back Brock Deter that Devin Morford recovered at the Morrison 49 yard line. On the Golden Eagles first play from scrimmage a Matlick pass was picked off by Travis Keller. The Golden Eagles Zach Nelson then intercepted a Wilkins pass at the 43 yard line.
From the Golden Eagle 39 yard line Mercer County went to work on a nine play 61 yard scoring drive. Matlick hit Nylin, Jesse Snyder, Nelson and Jon Ricke with passes down to the Mustang's six yard line. Matlick scored on a quarterback keeper with 2:54 remaining and Mercer County led 19-7.
The last three minutes of the first half were hectic but led to no scoring. Austin Rooth and Jesse Snyder each picked up sacks for the Golden Eagles defense but Matlick was injured on offense and had to come out.
The third quarter was dominated by the Mustangs. The Golden Eagle offense ran only six offensive plays in the period and didn't record a first down. The Mustangs scored on an eight play 45 yard drive on a one yard run by Deter at the 2:39 mark. The extra point cut the Golden Eagle lead to 19-14.
The Golden Eagles started moving again in the fourth period. Matlick completed a 34 yard pass to Nylin and a 12 yard pass to Devin Morford down to the Mustang 14 yard line. Nelson scored on a three yard run with 8:13 remaining in the game and Mercer County led 25-14.
Page 2 of 2 - Turnovers again struck the two teams. Golden Eagle Landon McIntosh recovered a Mustang fumble at the Morrison 37 yard line. Three plays later a Matlick pass was picked off by Morrison freshman Andy Bird at the 34 yard line.
Nylin again came up big for the Golden Eagles picking off a Wilkens pass at the 33 yard line with four minutes remaining in the contest.
The Mustangs managed one last late in the game but with second and goal from the Golden Eagles four yard line Bryce Skiles picked off another Wilkens pass to close out the game.
Tanner Matlick led the Golden Eagle offense completing 15 passes for 246 yards. Zach Nelson led the Golden Eagle rushing attack eight 58 yards while Jesse Snyder and Logan Snyder had 20 yards rushing apiece. Payton Holmes led the Golden Eagle receiving corps with five catches for 110 yards and one touchdown. Nylin added 68 yards on four catches.
Danny Willis led the Morrison rushing attack with 83 yards while Brock Deter added 78 yards. Mustang quarterback Matt Wilkens completed nine passes for 103 yards but also threw three interceptions.
The Golden Eagles will host Rockford Lutheran (9-1) Saturday at 2 p.m. Rockford Lutheran beat Rockridge Saturday night, 62-40.