TOPSHAM – Austin Baltazar ran for 300 yards and three touchdowns as Morse ran away with a 38-16 win over Mt. Ararat in high school football action at the Topsham Fairgrounds on Friday.

The Shipbuilders totaled 354 yards on the ground while they improved to 4-4 and will play a Class C South quarterfinal game this upcoming Friday, likely at Gardiner.

It was the fifth consecutive win for Morse against Mt. Ararat.

The Eagles fell to 2-6 and will likely visit top-seeded Kennebunk in a Class B South quarterfinal after the Rams defeated Marshwood, 17-14, on Friday.

“It was a big win for us heading into the playoffs,” Morse coach Jason Darling said. “We’ve had some dips the last few weeks, so it was nice to get back in the win column.”

The Shipbuilders wasted no time putting points on the board. On the second play from scrimmage, Baltazar broke free at the line and rushed down the field for a 49-yard score. Asa Hodgdon added the extra point.

“He’s got speed,” Mt. Ararat coach Matt Haskell said. “We’ve watched him on tape, but seeing him on the field … he’s a quality runner.”

Following an Eagles turnover on their second play from scrimmage, Morse moved up the field behind Baltazar’s 29 yards on five carries. But the Mt. Ararat defense held Morse in the red zone and Hodgdon nailed a 29-yard field goal less than eight minutes in.

“That was my first field goal of the season,” said Hodgdon, who also scored a goal in Friday’s Class B South boys soccer quarterfinal match earlier in the day, a penalty kick loss to Leavitt. “Yeah, it was a little tiring. I noticed on my way to Mt. Ararat after playing 110 minutes of soccer.”

Still in the opening quarter, Mt. Ararat struggled to move the ball deep in its own territory. After committing their fifth penalty of  the quarter, along with a 10-yard sack my Morse’s Austin Magliozzi, the Eagles were forced to punt. After a Morse defender put a hand on the ensuing kick, Lukas Osterhout pounced on the ball in the end zone for another Shipbuilder score.

“You can’t win many games with a lot of penalties and failing at special teams,” Haskell said. “You can’t make those mistakes and expect to win.”

After 12 minutes of play, Morse held a 17-0 lead.

“It was huge for us to come out and score first,” Darling said. “We knew we wanted to come out here and set the tone.”

Each team traded punts to start the second quarter, and on Mt. Ararat’s fourth drive of the game, the offense was able to put a few plays together. Behind the legs of Hunter Lohr and Riley Morin, the home team marched to the end zone, completing the 65-yard drive on an 11-yard rush by Lohr to put the Eagles on the board. Nolan Blessington ran in the 2-point conversion to cut the Morse lead to 17-8.

With 1:37 remaining in the half, Baltazar once again broke free from the line of scrimmage and darted down the sidelines, scoring from 54-yards out to push the lead back to 24-8.

“I just run the ball, my lineman do the blocking for me,” the senior running back said. “This is my senior night and I wanted to make sure I left it all out on the field.”

Mt. Ararat answered almost immediately when Lohr darted through the middle, breaking away from several tacklers for a 44-yard touchdown just two plays later.

“I knew if I could get around some of the linebackers and get outside, I could run,” Lohr said. “It’s a collective effort of our team and the work we put in during practices.”

With 57 ticks remaining on the clock, Morse was not finished. Aided by two more Eagle infractions, Baltazar made quick work on the Mt. Ararat defense and rushed in his third touchdown of the half from 3-yards out. After Hodgdon’s fourth point-after kick, the visitors took a 31-16 lead into the break.

Baltazar rushed for 202 yards on 15 carries in the first half. Lohr was solid for the Eagles, running for 138 yards on a dozen rushes, while Morin added 22 yards on the ground.

Mt. Ararat was penalized nine times for 100 yards in the opening half.

After punts on the first three drives by both teams in the third quarter, Morse found gold once again. Mason Savary took a toss from quarterback Corey Larmon to the outside and dodged a pair of tackles for an 18-yard score late in the third quarter. Hodgdon added another kick to complete his busy day.

Neither team scored in the final quarter as each squad played a clean defensive frame to end the contest.

“We have some great runners, but it all starts with Austin,” Darling said. “He’s been our workhorse all year, rushing just under 1,500 yards for the season.”

While both teams wait their quarterfinal opponents, they will get right back to work today.

“We’ll get right back into practice to see how we can get better for next week,” Lohr said after finishing with 197 yards on 21 carries.

“We’ll get ready for whoever we face, although it looks like Gardiner again,” Darling said.

Morse lost to Gardiner in the quarterfinals, 13-8 a year ago.

 

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