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Morton Ranch rolls to third non-district victory

September 24, 2018

The Morton Ranch football team had a final tune-up before District 19-6A play, welcoming Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center to Rhodes Stadium on Sept. 21.

The Mavericks took care of business with a 62-13 rout. One year after finishing 3-6, they take a 3-1 mark into their district opener Sept. 29 against Katy Taylor at Legacy Stadium.

“We feel confident,” Morton Ranch coach Ron Counter said. “We know it’s going to be tough starting next week with Katy Taylor and every week in district. Most of the teams, if not all of them, are improved from last year. But we feel like we are too.”

A healthy and more experienced defense has been key to the strong start. The Mavericks allowed only four positive plays on six possessions during a first-half shutout.

Houston scored twice in the third quarter on runs of 60 yards or more by speedy quarterback Luke Chavez. But the Mavericks still held their third opponent to 20 points or less, including a 22-20 win against Cypress Lakes and a 21-14 win against Westside.

Junior defensive lineman Brandon Brown said the team has benefitted from improved intensity in practice and familiarity with the coaching staff in Counter’s second year at Morton Ranch.

“We go hard in practice, harder than we did last year,” Brown said. “We learned we have to go hard in practice so we can show it on the field.”

Sophomore Damon Bankston, who started the year on the junior varsity, led the offense for the second straight week with 21 carries for 207 yards and four touchdowns.

He amassed 192 yards and two scores on 29 carries in his varsity debut against Westside, providing stability at tailback with Joshua Bennett and Jaelon Moorehead injured.

“We had Josh get hurt in spring with an ACL,” Counter said. “Then Jaelon, hopefully he’ll be back next week. Devin Winfield is a sophomore who we think is going to be very good. He sprained his ankle. He’ll be back next week. In reality Bankston is our fourth-string tailback.

“He’s going to stay on varsity. He’s also a pretty good defensive back, so he might play some on defense. We’ll definitely use him on special teams.”

Bankston admitted to some nerves before the Westside game but did not take long to get into the flow of the game. He said he enjoys running behind and an effective offensive line, as well as the confidence showed in him.

“Everybody was really encouraging,” Bankston said. “They were telling to stay focused. They weren’t doubtful.

“The team really wanted to win. Everybody needed someone to step up, so I just stepped up.”

Morton Ranch led 38-0 at halftime, scoring on their first six possessions.

The Mavericks needed a fourth-down conversion on their opening drive, but Diaz calmly found Josh Gaton behind the defense for a 22-yard touchdown less than three minutes into the game. Gabriel Garcia added a 22-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead, converting a fumble recovery.

Faced with their worst field position of the first half on their next drive, the Mavericks needed six plays to cover 71 yards. Anthony Baker turned third down into a 54-yard catch and run for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead after one quarter.

Bankston finished the next three drives, scoring on runs of 4, 35 and 16 yards. He added a 19-yard touchdown in the third, while Jordan Foley and Eric Arambula reached the end zone later. Foley carried 12 times for 135 yards.

Kicker Gabriel Garcia, who started his junior season with the game-winning kick against Cy Lakes, added two more field goals to his total as part of a busy night. He was also perfect on eight point-after attempts.

“My teammates got all the chances for me tonight, all the touchdowns, all the opportunities,” Gabriel said. “It feels great.”

Morton Ranch takes some momentum into a district that could be as competitive as ever. The Mavericks seek their fifth playoff berth since 2011.

“We’re very confident,” Brown said. “We have a lot of people coming back from injury this year. We’re hungry. We want to make a run.”

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