ROCKAWAY – The hardest critic of Morris Hills’ Daymon Fleming is Fleming himself, even after Saturday’s 21-7 defeat of High Point.
Midway through the third quarter of the game, the junior quarterback who also serves as the Scarlet Knights punter, chose to run for a first down instead of punting, and was stopped short of the first down marker, turning the ball over to the Wildcats.
As he walked to the sideline, Morris Hills coach Mike Sabo came over to him and reminded him that while the decision to run is his, if he is going to make decision to run, he has to be aware of where the defense and the yard markers are.
In a close game, when he could have played it safe, and punted, Fleming had went for the big play and come up short. He knew he could not make the same mistake again.
“I try my hardest to make every play, and when I stepped out of bounds, and knew I was short, it brings me down, and my game has to be better than that,” Fleming said. “I had to step up and make better plays.”
That is precisely what Fleming did.
One quarter later, Fleming again made the decision to keep the ball and run, and this time found no defenders in the vicinity, scoring his second touchdown of the afternoon. Fleming finished the afternoon rushing for 149 yards on 19 carries.
“Daymon is a great kid, if you have a team of Daymon Flemings, you are going to win a lot of games,” Sabo said. “Daymon has been starting for us since week 5 of his freshman year and we are 12-10 with him as a starter. He’s a winner and a kid you want to go into battle with every week”
The victory broke a three game losing streak for Morris Hills, who improved to 3-4 on the season. Morris Hills came into the game ranked 11th in the NJSIAA North 1 Group III standings. The Scarlet Knights needed a victory Saturday against High Point to keep their playoff hopes alive going into next week’s game against Sparta.
“To make the playoffs you have to play against a good team like Sparta, and that is how we are treating next week’s game,” Sabo said. “Our goal is to be in the playoffs. We go to Sparta next week, if we beat Sparta, we make the playoffs.”
Running behind an offensive line led by guards Nick Merz and Billy Nieman, Fleming and running back Nick Walls combined for 256 yards on the ground. The Morris Hills guards, along with tackle Kyler Weir opened holes up the middle for Walsh and on sweeps for Fleming.
Morris Hills took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter behind Fleming’s. Taking over on the Scarlet Knights’ 20-yard line, Fleming carried the ball four times for 62 yards, capping the 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard run off left tackle behind the blocks of Merz and Nieman, who pulled out and cleared a path.
Walls, who rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries, increased the lead to 13-0 in the fourth quarter on a four yard burst up the middle.
“Nick ran the ball hard today, and the offensive line in front of him did a good job,” Sabo said.
High Point would answer back to close the score to 13-7 when quarterback Mike Yarosz, who rushed for 93 yards on 14 carries, dove over the goal line on fourth down.
High Point attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the ball did not travel 10 yards, and Morris Hills got the ball on the High Point 49-yard line with 3:45 left in the game. Three runs by Walls gained 24 yards. On the next play, Fleming faked a handoff, started to roll to his left, and seeing nobody coming up to challenge him, sprinted down the High Point sideline untouched for the score.
“You have to give a player some independence to make decisions,” Sabo said. “Daymon is a kid who can make a big play for you. Today he had the opportunity to go, and he took it.”
Morris Hills cornerback Anthony Rodriguez intercepted Yarosz on High Point’s final possession to preserve the victory for Morris Hills.
“It feels great to break the losing streak, now we have to go to Sparta and get a win,” Fleming said.
The loss kept High Point winless, and was their ninth consecutive loss dating back to last season, and their 21st loss in their last 22 games dating back to 2013.
High Point (0-7) 0 0 0 7—7
Morris Hills (3-4) 0 7 0 14—21
M—Daymon Fleming 10 run (John Bernal kick)
M—Nick Walls 4 run (Kick failed)
H—mike Yarosz 1 run (Patrick Kelly kick)
M—Daymon Fleming 25 run (Daymon Fleming run)