DUBUQUE — It wasn’t perfect, though it never was going to be. There was no way it could be.
But it was good, and it was a win over a quality opponent. And it was a game.
That was the biggest thing.
Marcus Morgan accounted for five touchdowns, including a pick-six interception return with just under five minutes left that cemented Iowa City West’s 35-23 victory Thursday night over Dubuque Senior at Dalzell Field. West is ranked sixth in Class 4A, Senior 10th.
“I honestly thought that was one of the guttiest performances from a high school football team that I’ve ever been a part of,” said West Coach Garrett Hartwig. “To have to take three weeks off without being around these boys, knowing what they were doing. To play an excellent team on the road on a Thursday night, to gut that win out speaks to their character and the senior leadership. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
West (3-0), of course, had its season put on pause after a Sept. 4 game against rival Iowa City High because the Iowa City Community School District decided to begin the school year with online classes only. No in-person learning meant no activities.
Players worked out on their own as a group, with coaches not allowed to have any contact with them. The ICCSD started a hybrid class method this week, which meant football could be resumed.
The first practice back for these guys was Saturday. Six days later, they played and won, which is a pretty incredible when you think about it.
“Conditioning and execution were my biggest concerns,” said Morgan. “We were coming off four or five days of practice, execution obviously (was a concern). I honestly wasn’t too worried about conditioning because we’ve been working our butts off with that the last three weeks.”
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West took a 28-7 lead when quarterback Morgan hooked up with Damarion Williams for a 16-yard touchdown to begin the second half. Senior (3-3) rallied, though, a 68-yard TD pass from QB pass from Jack Gilligan to tight end Carson Tart bringing the Rams within 28-23 with 10:54 left.
Senior had two offensive possessions after that with a chance to go ahead, but Morgan picked off a Gilligan pass that was tipped to him, running it back 45 yards with 4:49 to go. The senior had three TD passes in the game, a TD run and his interception return.
“They had run that play a couple of times,” Morgan said. “The quarterback threw it a little behind him enough. I was playing the tip, it fell right into my hands, and I had blockers all the way back.”
Morgan accounted for 303 rushing and passing yards for West. Grahm Goering had 106 yards in receptions and two touchdowns.
Running back Cain McWilliams had 182 yards rushing on 30 attempts for Senior. West picked off Gilligan four times in the game.
“My senior year, it felt great being out here and playing again,” said West’s Dijon Gemus, who had an interception. “I love playhing football with these guys. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It feels great being back on the field and taking that victory home”
Iowa City West 35
Dubuque Senior 23
13 First Downs 16
32-107 Rushes-Yards 41-208
233 Passing Yards 215
10-23-0 Att.-Comp.-Int. 12-23-4
340 Total Yards 423
6-35 Penalties-Yards 4-35
6-40.7 Punts-Avg. 3-32.3
1-0 Fumbles-Lost 0-0
Iowa City West 7 14 7 7-35
Dubuque Senior 0 7 10 6-23
ICW-Marcus Morgan 1 run (Owen Smith kick)
ICW-Grahm Goering 54 pass from Morgan (Smith kick)
DS-Landon Sauser 12 pass from Jack Gilligan (Jacob Konrardy kick)
ICW-Goering 22 pass from Morgan (Smith kick)
ICW-Damarion Williams 16 pass from Morgan (Smith kick)
DS-Konrardy 32 FG
DS-Sauser 12 pass from Gilligan (Konrardy kick)
DS-Carson Tart 68 pass from Gilligan (Konrardy kick)
ICW-Morgan 45 interception return (Smith kick)
RUSHING-Iowa City West: Marcus Morgan 8-70, Trey King 16-48, Fabian Brown 3-12, Taylon Mann 1-1, Grahm Goering 1-(minus) 1, Team 3-(minus) 23. Dubuque Senior: Cain McWilliams 30-182, Jack Gilligan 6-20, Hunter Preston 2-8, Tommy Williams 2-0, Team 1-(minus) 2.
PASSING-Iowa City West: Marcus Morgan 10-23-0-233. Dubuque Senior: Jack Gilligan 12-23-4-215.
RECEIVING-Iowa City West: Grahm Goering 3-106, Mikey Crutcher 2-698, Eric Torres 4-42, Damarion Williams 1-16. Dubuque Senior: Landon Sauser 4-91, Carson Tart 1-68, Hunter Preston 4-38, Logan Flanagan 1-8, Cain McWilliams 1-5, Ben Hefel 1-5.
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