High Schools - With first win Cardinal Dougherty on hot streak

Posted: September 08, 2009

WILDWOOD, N.J. - When school starts tomorrow at Cardinal Dougherty High, Tarik Morris' favorite body parts will be his ears.

He just knows, finally, he'll hear a crescendo of positive comments as he moves through the hallways and interacts with his fellow students.

Unlike last football season, when the Cardinals stumbled to an 0-9 record. Or 2007, when they won their opener and dropped the rest.

"The negative talk is all friendly," Morris said. "But it still takes a toll on you because there's some truth to it."

Now hear this! Morris and friends are no longer on the schneid!

With Morris, a 5-11, 190-pound senior halfback, rushing 15 times for 89 yards and an 8-yard touchdown, Dougherty bested Ss. Neumann-Goretti, 6-0, in a non-league opener played in sticky conditions at Maxwell Field.

"It took us long enough," Morris kidded. "It wasn't pretty, but that's football."

As the clock hit 0:00, second-year coach Jim Grugan disappeared under a waterfall and the players spared no energy while rejoicing. The cards had been stacked against Dougherty for 17 consecutive games (though the first loss in that skid, to Frankford, was overturned via forfeit), so experiencing the flip side of depression was quite exhilarating.

OK, maybe not depression. At least not for Morris.

"The seasons felt long. Just really drawn out," he said. "I was OK with it, though, because I love football. Win, lose or draw, I come to practice every day and work hard and do my best for the team.

"Today, we came in with a chip on our shoulder. We wanted it real bad. It didn't matter how bad Neumann wanted it. We wanted it 10 times more. In the second half, with the score still 0-0, we had to take it."

Amazingly, Dougherty's scoring drive, completed with 0:57 showing in the third quarter, covered 140 yards - 87 the first time, 53 the next.

Quarterback Trevor Pendleton first scored on an impressive 73-yard, mad-dash keeper along the left sideline, but a piece of yellow cloth (for blocking in the back) wrecked the fun.

"I saw that," said Morris, who lives near Walnut Lane and Musgrave Street in Germantown and envisions a career in marketing. "It seemed like the Neumann guy did it to our guy, really . . . Had to keep our focus. Take it down there again. Grind it out. We felt they were tired. We wanted to take advantage."

Part II of the drive required five plays, and a 15-yard penalty (for unsportsmanlike conduct) lent assistance. Morris carried three times for 32 yards while Luther Harling added 6 yards on a run and a catch. Dealing with severe cramping, star N-G linebacker Stan "Buddy" Visack was not on the field on the scoring play, which went straight up the middle.

Defensively, Dougherty received strong efforts from Harling (fumble recovery) and Hovard Harrison (forced fumble) at linebacker, and from Jolan Hardy and Kyle McDowell (interception) along the line. Morris also popped at safety.

"Even when I'm running, I like to deliver the blow," he said. "Football's a contact sport."

Dougherty, which hasn't experienced a winning season since 1993, now owns just 15 wins this decade (counting the forfeit). The shutout was its first since Thanksgiving 2000 (27-0 over Olney).

"Hopefully, we can build off today," Grugan said. "We've already faced adversity, losing three starters to injury. And two of those guys started both ways.

"The nice thing was, it didn't feel like we were holding on as the game wound down. It felt like we were in command, like we were going to get the job done."

Said Morris: "We all feel good for coach Grugan. He works so hard at this. Stays around long after hours watching films. Uses money out of his own pocket to get us stuff, like Gatorade. He deserves this. Now we need to get him many more."

School notes

In game one here, West Catholic edged Roman Catholic, 21-18, as Brandon Hollomon ran for two TDs and posted an interception . . . In Ocean City, Cardinal O'Hara jolted Archbishop Wood, 35-14, behind 100-yard performances from three rushers, Corey Brown (16-162), Adam Dempsey (9-110) and Dan O'Hara (10-102) . . . In Wheeling, W.Va., sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg passed for two late TDs (one apiece to Bobby D'Orazio, Desmon Peoples) as St. Joseph's Prep stunned McKeesport from western Pennsylvania, 27-26.

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