Penncrest can’t make any magic on new turf

MIDDLETOWN >> At the new turf field at Louis W. Scott Stadium Friday night, black was the most prominent color. The end zones were black. The padding on the goal posts were black. The white numbers on the field were outlined in black as were the sidelines. The hometown Penncrest Lions came out with black pants, black socks and black shoes. Their jet-black helmets were adorned with a crimson “P” on one side and a lion on the other, both with black detailing.

If intimidation was the message, though, it never reached Upper Moreland. Rodney Morgan rushed for 252 yards and the Golden Bears raced out to the first 21 points of the game on their way to a 28-15 victory.

“It felt great,” said Morgan, a senior making his debut as a starter. “It was a great experience. The O-line played great, the d played great. It feels good to win.”

The man they call Hot Rod set the tone early for Upper Moreland. He accounted for 75 yards of offense on the Bears’ opening drive, 17 on a fourth-and-three scamper to spot the visitors a 7-0 lead.

On the first play of the second quarter, Morgan sprinted 78 yards for a touchdown. Penncrest had the 5-9, 187-pound runner wrapped up at the line of scrimmage only to see him break through the would-be tacklers.

“Their running back ran hard,” said Lions senior Ryan Kinnard. “We weren’t trusting our reads. Everyone was a little off.”

Penncrest’s miscues could be dismissed as first game errors. Kinnard admitted that his defensive group, inexperienced in several key areas, was a little nervous. The result was a first half that saw Morgan rush for 177 yards while the Bears earned eight first downs. Three times they went for it on fourth down. Three times they were successful.

“We got a young team,” said Lions coach Rick Stroup. “We got a lot of new players, new starters, new linemen.”

His young team settled down in the second half. After Casey Decker’s 4-yard keeper made it 21-0, Penncrest responded with 15 unanswered points in a span of 2:43. A safety was followed by two Kinnard rush touchdowns and suddenly it was a six-point contest.

Morgan, however, put the game to rest. On third-and-two from the Penncrest 30, he escaped untouched for his third long touchdown of the night.

“I thought we could do it,” said Kinnard of the comeback bid. He finished with 77 tough yards on the ground. “Their guy made a good play and that was it.”

The Lions ribbon-cutting night didn’t go according to plan, but there were positives to take for a team hoping to rebound from a disappointing 2014 campaign. Kinnard made plays on both sides of the ball and defensive tackle Mateos Ghebre, a 6-5, 280-pound behemoth, was a nuisance throughout the second half.

“The kids kept fighting,” said Stroup. “We had a chance. We just have to play better.”

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