by Joseph W. Gex II

The Saint Stanislaus Rock-A-Chaws started their trek toward Morton around lunchtime on Friday, November 5, with the hope to make the return trip later that evening a joyous one. But, it was not to be.
The Morton Panthers jumped out quickly on the Rocks, who were playing in the postseason for the ninth consecutive year, for a 42-31 victory. However, it was not without excitement.
Morton (6-5) struck first on the first play from scrimmage with a 71-yard double-pass from Robert Jennings to Quavious Wilson with 11:34 left in the first quarter. The two-point conversion attempt was intercepted by Davien Lagarde leaving the score 6-0.
The Rocks (4-6) got a 39-yard gain from Lagarde on their first play from scrimmage only to lose the ball a play later on a fumble.
The Panthers drove to the Rock three yard line before a penalty forced them to settle for a 24-yard field goal attempt. Jacob Bradford broke through the line and blocked the kick that was picked up by Lagarde who raced 87 yards for the touchdown with 6:00 left in the first quarter. Evan Noel converted the PAT to make the score 7-6.
A strong defensive stand by SSC forced a punt and SSC took over at their own 33 yard line.
Alex Fabra hit Ja’Kobe Cameron for a 30-yard gain followed by a 14-yard gain from the same duo. Next, Fabra hit Canye Bankston for nine yards before Lagarde broke free for a 19-yard scoring run with 53 seconds left in the quarter. Noel hit the PAT to put SSC up 14-6.
Morton wasted little time answering as Madden Gerald hit Xavier McDonald for a 65-ard scoring toss with 10:31 left in the half. Gerald found Jennings for the two-point conversion to knot the score at 14-14.
The Rocks mixed it up on the ensuing drive witha toss to Bankston, a five-yard gain by Fabra and a 14-yard pickup by Lagarde effort SSC was intercepted by Devin Anderson at the Panther five yard line.
The Panthers drove to midfield before being forced to punt. However, the Rocks gave it right back to Morton when they put the ball on the carpet for the second time.
The Panthers answered with a four-yard scoring run by Jennings with 2:54 left in in half. The PAT by George Ibarra was good pushing the score to 21-14.
The Panthers forced the Rocks to punt and Morton quickly found the endzone again. Gerald found Denim Youngblood for a 47-yard scoring aerial with 1:22 left in the half. The PAT by Ibarra made the score at intermission 28-14.
SSC came out in the second half and gathered points. Fabra found Bankston for passes of 36 and 10 yards down to the Panthers’ 20 yard line. Noel nailed a 37-yard field goal with 8:24 left in the third quarter to make the score 28-17.
Morton put together a methodical 12-play drive that ended with a one-yard run by Temarion Burton with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter. Ibarra made good on the PAT to push the score to 35-17.
After a strong defensive stand by Morton forcing the Rocks to punt, Morton found the endzone again. Taking over near midfield after a 17-yard return on the punt, Morton had a six-play drive that culminated with a 14-yard run by Jennings with 27 seconds left in the third quarter. The PAT by Ibarra made the score 42-17.
With their backs against the wall, SSC responded with a 29-yard pass from Fabra to Cameron followed by a 26-yard scoring aerial from Fabra to Cameron with 11:22 left in the game. The two-point conversion failed leaving the score 42-23.
An onsides kick failed but a strong defensive stand from Tyler, Spencer Cornell, and others gave SSC the ball back on downs at their 35 yard line.
Three plays later, Fabra launched a 54-yard scoring aerial to Cameron with 7:04 left to play. The two-point conversion failed leaving the score 42-31.
Another onsides kick attempt gave the Panthers excellent field position. However, the Rock defense came through as Lagarde made his second interception on the game at the Rock 30 yard line.
The Rocks put together a 10-play drive only to cone up short and turned the ball over on downs at the Morton 35 yard-line. The Panthers ran out the clock to preserve the win and move on to the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs against top-ranked Raleigh.
SSC head coach Nate Encrapera stat, “I am very proud of how we played tonight never giving up. That is a testament to the leadership of our senior class. We will review this film and what we did this year and regroup and start getting ready for next year.”
The Rocks were led by Fabra who threw for 270 yards and two scores while Cameron caught 10 passes for 192 and both touchdowns. Lagarde added 13 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Tyler led the defense with 20 tackles including six solo stops, a tackle for loss, and a pass break followed by Joe Bradford with 10 stops.
The Rocks head into the off-season looking to get ready for their 107th season of football in August, only a mere 287 days until kickoff.