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Morgan City High School's Devonta Grogan carries the football during Thursday's District 8-4A opener against Ellender in Morgan City. Grogan rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns and had another receiving touchdown in Morgan City's 24-21 loss. Morgan City will return to action Oct. 18 when it hosts Assumption in district play. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)

MCHS falls just short of victory in 24-21 loss to Ellender

So close.
The Morgan City High School Tigers were in position to snap a lengthy district losing streak as well as an overall losing streak that dates back to last year.
However, the Tigers were unable to convert golden opportunities, falling 24-21 to Ellender in District 8-4A action in Morgan City Thursday.
“We’re down there knocking on the door twice and we didn’t get in,” Morgan City Coach Chris Stroud said of two lost fumbles inside the 5-yard line on Morgan City possessions. The last one came at the goal line with a chance for Morgan City to retake the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Stroud said the Tigers weren’t even able to attempt field goals on either drive, noting they have a quality kicker in Helder Hernandez.
Despite the tough ending, Stroud recognized his team’s effort.
“Our kids played their tails off,” he said.
It’s the second straight week Morgan City has played well, Stroud said.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “We’ve got a tough opponent next week, and we’re at fall break, so hopefully the kids will show up at practice and we’ll get ready for Assumption.”
In Thursday’s contest, Morgan City, which led 21-17 after standout Devonta Grogan scored on a 54-yard run on the Tigers’ first offensive play of the third quarter, had a chance to extend its lead on a drive that began after Hilton Hebert recovered an Ellender fumble at the Morgan City 38.
The Tigers (0-5 overall, 0-1 in district) moved the ball down the field, including a 38-yard pass play from quarterback Kane Sanchez to Adrian Garrison that gave the Tigers a first down at the Ellender 20.
However, later in the drive on second and goal at the Morgan City 4, a fumble on the snap was recovered by Ellender (2-4, 1-0).
In the fourth quarter, the Patriots retook the lead at 24-21 with 10:03 remaining on Anthony Foret’s 3-yard run and Man Pham’s extra point.
The Tigers moved down the field and appeared to have retaken the lead as Grogan broke a long run down the Morgan City sideline, but he was ruled out of bounds at the Ellender 2. Three plays later on third down, Grogan carried the football to the goal line but fumbled there, and Ellender recovered in the back of the end zone for a touch back with 6:18 remaining.
“I’m not sure if we didn’t get it to go. I can’t wait to see the film, because I thought we got in twice,” Stroud said, alluding to the long run and the fumble at the goal line. “I don’t know if he stepped out of bounds.”
Following the touchback, the Patriots drained the remainder of the clock to win the game.
Early on, Ellender looked like it may run away with the game as the Patriots jumped out to a 17-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Patriots’ scores came on a 25-yard field goal by Pham on Ellender’s opening possession, while the Patriots added a touchdown on a 16-yard run by O’Ryan James with 4:50 remaining following an interception of Sanchez.
The Patriots scored again with 39.4 seconds remaining on Daviante Scott’s 4-yard run after recovering a Morgan City fumble.
“Our defense stepped up (and) got some great turnovers that put our offense in position to score two more touchdowns,” Ellender Coach David McCormick said.
McCormick also noted the importance of the field goal.
“Over there at Ellender, we don’t make too many field goals, so that was big for us, and it wound up being the difference in the game,” McCormick said.
The big lead wouldn’t stand, though, as the Tigers roared back behind the play of Grogan.
Grogan scored a 35-yard pass play from Sanchez with 8:26 remaining in the second quarter to cut Ellender’s lead to 17-6.
The Tigers scored again on their next possession on 52-yard run by Grogan with 2:14 remaining in the half. Garrison’s two-point run was good to cut Morgan City’s deficit to 17-14.
At halftime, the Patriots had to make some offensive adjustments with the loss of running back Tyshaun Hester due to injury, McCormick said.
For Morgan City, Grogan scored all three of the Tigers’ touchdowns, finishing the game with 178 yards rushing and two touchdowns and another receiving touchdown.
“Morgan City, No. 4 (Devonta Grogan) for them, that kid’s an athlete,” McCormick said. “He doesn’t quit. He’s nonstop the whole game. Those kids worked their butts off. Those kids fought hard, too, and they got themselves in position where they were down by three at halftime.”
As a team, Ellender had 378 yards of offense (315 rushing and 63 passing).
Foret led the run game with 29 carries for 164 yards and one touchdown, while Scott had eight carries for 68 yards and a score.
Morgan City had 275 yards of offense (166 rushing and 109 passing).
Sanchez, who has played late in games the last couple of weeks, started this week at quarterback while the Tigers’ starting quarterback the first five games of the season, Khai Hartley, was used at fullback. He spent some time at quarterback, too.
“He’s a great athlete, and he wants to do anything he can to help the team,” Stroud said of Hartley, who caught a pass for a first down on Morgan City’s final drive of the night.
Thursday, Sanchez completed 6 of 9 passes for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Stroud said the Tigers will continue to use the two quarterbacks going forward.
“We’ll play it by ear how we do it,” he said.
Morgan City will return to action Oct. 18 when it hosts Assumption in District 8-4A play.

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