The Tigers took advantage of three early fumbles by Berwick to take a 19-0 lead after one quarter.
Eric Walker scored two rushing touchdowns and Hoang Ngyuen scored a touchdown on a tightrope scramble up the home sideline for 18 yards.
The shifty, bruising running style employed by Walker led to a third rushing touchdown for the sophomore to start the second quarter. Walker finished with 67 yards on 15 carries and intercepted a pass on defense that was returned for a touchdown.
“It’s still early in the season so we’re going to have some mistakes,” MCHS coach Brandon Nowlin said. “We improved on some things this week and gave ourselves a chance. Berwick High School, we have a lot of respect for their team and the coaching staff. We have a lot of the same ailments, it showed up early in the game, and fortunately we were able to capitalize on them.”
Walker carried the ball in a starting role with Tigers starter Adeyemi Wheeler out injured.
“No sir (no extra pressure),” Walker said of the starting role. “I wanted to score three touchdowns. I got what I wanted, the team helped me get it.”
Berwick put up its first touchdown with 7 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in the second quarter as Reed Leonard hit Matt Skelton in stride for a 55-yard touchdown on the Panthers first play of the drive to cut the MCHS lead to 25-7.
“We just keep giving points away, fumbling the ball and making bad throws,” BHS coach Craig Brodie said. “It’s the same thing that went on in the first quarter that’s gone on the last two games. After that I thought we settled down and did pretty well. We battled back and did pretty well.”
The Tigers answered on the first play of the ensuing drive with an 80-yard pass from Ngyuen to Austin Stroud.
Stroud went into a crowd and looked like he would be stopped, but he broke free and outran the Panthers secondary for the longest score of the game.
“Austin Stroud — I just can’t say enough about the kid,” Nowlin said. “He catches it, he punts it — he can kick it if we need him to. He’s a punt returner for us. The young man is a warrior out there, he’s not a very big guy but he plays very big. I’m impressed with what he’s done with us and he has become more and more of a leader. It’s just his second year playing football. Every time he takes the field he gets better and amazes me at what he does.”
After settling in following the fumble issues in the first quarter, the Panthers showed promise with successful drives into Morgan City territory with BHS outscoring the Tigers 13-6 in the second half.
Walker scored his fourth touchdown for Morgan City on a 36-yard interception return for the last points of the night for the Tigers.
The Panthers scored late in the third quarter with a touch of trickery to cap off an eight play drive over 56-yards.
Left-handed running back Lucas Loya took a pitch and threw a halfback pass with his right hand that wasn’t pretty, but it found Brad Lemoine for a 36-yard touchdown.
Leonard scored the last points of the game on a scramble for two yards with the junior getting the better part of a collision with D.J. Vermillion at the goal line for a touchdown.
The Tigers had trouble in week one converting in short yardage situations so Nowlin added a new wrinkle to the offense with a power formation that created big mismatches at the line of scrimmage and led to several critical first downs against Berwick.
“We got stopped last week in Comeaux on fourth-and-one and third-and-one so we decided to put a little bit more beef in there to make sure we could get a yard or on the goal line,” Nowlin said. “It helped us tonight. We call it total right and total left and get a defensive lineman in there and he just helps push the pile.”
Brodie was impressed by the power formation and was surprised the Tigers didn’t run out of it more often.
“They outmanned us, we were in the right formation and adjusted well, but they were just bigger and stronger,” Brodie said. “They just pushed us. We knew what they were going to do, they did it. They probably could’ve lined up in that and did it every play. They should’ve just done it the whole game. Hats off to them.”
Both teams saw Friday’s game as an evenly matched contest that either could’ve won. Both are also in a sense of rebuilding programs that have struggled in recent years.
Brodie said the loss did something to his team he hadn’t seen in the past few weeks that was encouraging.
“The kids are really upset after the game,” Brodie said. “It’s something I really didn’t see in the last two games. They were very upset — that’s good. I’m happy to see their disappointment, if that makes sense. We did a lot of positive things tonight. It’s a process.”
The process for Berwick resumes on Thursday in Morgan City against Central Catholic, while Morgan City will host Sarah Reed on Friday at home.
The first win of the season for MCHS should make for an exciting week in practice and its something Nowlin hopes they can build on.
“Hopefully our guys will get this taste of victory and enjoy it,” Nowlin said. “And realize that’s what they want every week. Hopefully we can build on this win and carry it forward throughout the rest of our season. But, it’s only one, we’ve got to get ready for Sara Reed coming from New Orleans and try to get a win next week.”