If the Morris Knolls football team wants to make a run in the state playoffs beginning next week, it will have to not only snap a three-game losing streak but overcome some damaged psyches that come with it.
On Saturday afternoon, the Golden Eagles lost a 42-14 decision at home against Randolph that was every bit as lopsided as the final score indicates.
Morris Knolls has been outscored over the last three weeks against Pope John, Sparta, and Randolph by a combined score of 170-64.
Coach Bill Regan’s team will open up play on the road against a team to be determined in Section 1, Group IV beginning next weekend. The NJSIAA will announce official playoff pairings Sunday.
Leaky defense and turnovers killed any chance of the Golden Eagles to remain competitive against Randolph in a matchup of old IHC-Iron rivals.
In the first quarter, Randolph went 50 yards in seven plays and scored when quarterback Connor Logoyda hit James Bertelle with a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Then on Morris Knolls next possession, the Golden Eagles recovered their own fumble on first down but, on second down, Randolph’s Brennan Corcoran intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards, setting up Jason Cohen’s 30-yard touchdown on the very next play, making it Randolph 14-0 after one quarter.
Early in the second quarter, things would get worse for Morris Knolls. On fourth-and-four at the Randolph 31, quarterback Joe Leonardis rushed for no gain on a fourth-and-4. The Rams drove from their own 31 to the Knolls 25 before fumbling.
But on Morris Knolls’ very first play after getting the turnover, Corcoran intercepted another pass and this time returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. So instead of Morris Knolls trailing 14-0 and having the ball and maybe some momentum building, it now trailed 21-0.
Morris Knolls took the ensuing kickoff and put together two first downs on two carries. But on the team’s next carry, Morris Knolls fumbled and Randolph’s Adam Pardo recovered. The Rams failed to score, but that was indicative of how the first half went for the home team.
With just 24 seconds left in the first half, things would hit rock bottom for Regan’s team when, on fourth-and-9, Corcoran got behind the secondary in the back of the end zone and caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Logoyda.
Amazingly, Randolph was penalized for an illegal substitution penalty on the previous play as strong-legged senior kicker Frank Raggo was setting up for a long field goal.
But it was that kind of day for Morris Knolls.
In the second half, the Rams took the kickoff and effortlessly went 80 yards for a touchdown in just five plays, getting very little resistance from the Golden Eagles defense as Carlo Zarra concluded the drive with a 54-yard touchdown run.
Later in the third quarter, Bertelle had a 40-yard touchdown run before Randolph coach Joe Lusardi put in his reserves.
Morris Knolls would score two touchdowns in the second half. Leonardis connected with receiver Tremayne Blair for a 30-yard touchdown. Later, Mike Marra rushed for an 11-yard touchdown run. Kicker Joe Fullum booted a pair of extra points for Knolls.