Josh Morris didn't pile up a lot of impressive statistics, but that really wasn't the goal.
Billings Skyview's sophomore quarterback made his first start, taking over for injured starter Shann Scott in Saturday's Class AA playoff game with Butte.
The Falcons needed Morris to manage the game, avoid turnovers and get the ball to the right people. Morris did that, mainly handing off to fullback Shawn Lebsock and halfback Derek Maciel who led the way in a 36-22 win on a balmy afternoon at Daylis Stadium.
The defending state champions move on to play Bozeman on Friday in the semifinals. The Hawks knocked off third-seeded Billings West 34-31 Friday night. Great Falls CMR and Missoula Big Sky play in the other semifinal.
The big questions coming in were how would the Falcons (10-1) react after sustaining their first loss, 48-41 to Billings West last week, and could Morris run the offense effectively?
"Shann's got some big shoes to fill, but Josh stepped up,” Maciel said. "He didn't play like a sophomore. He played like a senior.”
Even with a cut-down playbook, the Falcons still rushed for 449 yards. Lebsock gained 228 on 28 carries and Maciel had 152 and two touchdowns. The defense also did its part, recording five sacks and making two big stands in the fourth quarter.
"I was a little nervous,” Morris said. "I had all the confidence in my teammates. We pretty much ran what we did in practice. After the first play, you get used to it.”
"Shann could have gone if we had needed him,” coach Ron Lebsock said. "Things were going well enough. He has a few more days (to rehab). We cut down the (play) list a little. Larry (Newell, offensive coordinator) did a good job calling the plays and getting the ball in the right hands. It worked out well. I'm extremely proud of all of them.”
|VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS Butte vs. Skyview November 6, 2004 High bandwidth Low bandwidth Expect 3-5 minute downloads on slower connections.|
It was a rugged game and the Falcons expressed plenty of respect for Butte (4-7) which was tied with the Falcons at 22-22 going into the fourth quarter.
"They're tough,” said Skyview's Nathan Wahl. "It must be something in the water there. They're always a tough team.”
Wahl, who had a second-half interception, said the defense believed that the offense would score enough points.
"I didn't think that much about it (quarterback change),” Wahl said. "I have so much confidence in our offense. Josh proved he could play all week (in practice). He protected the ball. He came out and played great.”
Maciel gave the Falcons a boost right way, scoring on a tackle-breaking 65-yard run on the Falcons' third play of the game. A 69-yard run by Shawn Lebsock set up the first of three one-yard scores by Morris. Morris' second TD and a two-point run by Lebsock pushed the lead to 22-7.
But Butte got some momentum just before halftime when the Bulldogs stopped Lebsock inches short of a first down at the Butte 45. Quarterback Matt Paul completed four of six passes in a span of 41.5 seconds. He found Jon Jourdonnais on a seven-TD pass as time expired to make it 22-14 at halftime.
Paul guided an 80-yard drive in the third quarter to get Butte even. Overcoming a sack and a false start penalty on the drive, Paul rolled out and found Todd Hildreth in the right corner of the end zone on a 25-yard play. Paul ran for two points to produce a 22-22 tie at the 1:42 mark of the third.
Skyview came back with a grinding 15-play march that featured Lebsock and Maciel, who blasted their way to short gains. The key play, however, was a fourth-and-three from the Butte 4. Corey Vannoy got the first down in a sweep to the one-yard line and Morris scored on the next play with exactly eight minutes remaining.
With Scott on the sidelines - he's also the kicker and punter - Lebsock ran for a two-point conversion.
The defense got the ball back after Butte drove to the Falcons 43. Paul threw two incompletions and then was sacked for a three-yard loss by Shawn Lebsock and Jeff Price.
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On fourth down, Paul tried a screen pass to Kyle Osborne, who was immediately buried for a five-yard loss. The Falcons locked up the victory when Lebsock ran for 19 yards and, three plays later, Maciel covered the final 28 yards with another tackle-busting effort.
Despite the loss, Butte coach Greg Salo was happy with the Bulldogs' performance.
"Our kids played hard,” Salo said. "When it was 22-22 in the third quarter, I was beaming. We were tackling and playing hard. They looked like the Bulldogs of old.”
Skyview 36, Butte 22 Butte 7 7 8 0 - 22 Skyview 14 8 0 14 - 36
First Quarter Skyview - Derek Maciel 65 run (run failed) 11:06 Butte - Jordan Clary 1 run (Jon Jourdonnais kick) 5:35 Skyview - Josh Morris 1 run (Shawn Lebsock run) 4:35 Second Quarter Skyview - Morris 1 run (Lebsock run) 2:22 Butte - Jourdonnais 7 pass from Matt Paul (Jourdonnais kick) 0:00 Third Quarter Butte - Todd Hildreth 25 pass from Paul (Paul run) 1:42 Fourth Quarter Skyview - Morris 1 run (Lebsock run) 8:00 Skyview - Maciel 28 run (run failed) 2:37
Rushing - Butte: Clary 16-53, Paul 16-12. Skyview: Lebsock 28-228, Maciel 15-152, Morris 11-36, Corey Vannoy 4-31, Nick Lam 2-2.
Passing - Butte: Paul 14-29-1-185, Jourdonnais 0-1-0-0, Clary 0-1-0-0. Skyview: Morris 1-2-0-2.
Receiving - Butte: Jourdonnais 3-26, Hildreth 2-56, Brandon Robinson 2-40, Ryan Pollock 2-24, Clary 2-15, Ryan Dennehy 1-12, Kyle Osborne 1-minus 5. Skyview: Maciel 1-2.