MINOOKA – A few things went as expected in Friday night’s season-opening football game between Morris and Minooka, which the Indians won, 28-21.
Minooka’s Nathan Gunn was worth the price of admission, rushing for 161 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries.
And, when he was on the field, Morris’ Jake Walker was every bit his equal, as he finished with 42 yards on 11 carries, all in the first half, before twisting an ankle and sitting out after intermission.
Also, the game was typically season-opener sloppy, as both teams had more penalties than they would have liked – Morris had nine flags for 60 yards, while Minooka had seven for 87. And, in typical Morris-Minooka fashion, it was a hard-fought, to-the-final-buzzer battle, with the Redskins scoring with 3:09 to play to pull to within a touchdown and nearly recovering the ensuing onside kick at midfield.
More interesting, however, was what was unexpected. At least to most observers.
Minooka sophomore quarterback John Carnagio lit up the night sky with pass after pass, most of them finding their intended targets. All told, Carnagio finished 17 of 24 for 253 yards through the air. Even though he did not throw a touchdown pass and had one intercepted at the end of the first half, without his precision passing show, the Minooka ground game wouldn’t have had as much room to maneuver.
He came out throwing right from the start, as Minooka’s first play after Morris controlled the ball for more than half of the first quarter, and scored on a 10-yard Keagan Sobol run to take a 7-0 lead, was a fake handoff to Gunn and a deep pass from Carnagio to Jacob Adams that gained 41 yards. A facemask penalty on Morris moved it ahead 15 more yards to the 13, and Gunn took it the rest of the way on the next play.
“That first play was by design,” Carnagio said. “We knew they would be keying on Nathan, so we faked it to him. I relaxed pretty much after that. I wasn’t all that nervous to start off with, though. It was just another game.”
The rest of the Indians were impressed with Carnagio’s work as well.
“Johnny’s a special player,” Gunn said. “We knew he was special from the first day of practice, and this game didn’t surprise us. Between him throwing the ball and keeping the defense honest and my line opening up big holes, I had the easy job. It’s easy to run through big holes like my line was making for me.
“And our defense came up big, too. After that first drive of theirs, we made some adjustments. We knew that one touchdown wasn’t going to beat us anyway.”
“Johnny is a heck of a passer,” Minooka coach Paul Forsythe said. “You are going to hear a lot more about him in the next few years.
“I want to give some credit to Morris, though. They never quit and made it a lot more exciting than we wanted late in the game. But that’s what a Morris-Minooka game should be. It was an awesome atmosphere, and it’s great for both schools.”
For Morris, the game was a bit of a case of what could have been. What if Walker had been in the game all night? And, what if the Redskins had scored both times they were stopped short in the red zone in the first half?
“Obviously, not having Jake hurt in the second half,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “That took away a lot of our game plan. His ankle was sprained, and he maybe could have played, but it’s a long season and we didn’t want to risk losing him for the rest of it.
“What really hurt was getting stopped in the red zone twice. We have to score there. That’s 14 points for us, and we lost by seven. But, give Minooka credit. They got the stops when they needed them and we couldn’t. We have some problems we need to fix, but we’ll get at it next week and get back on track.”