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For the second time in three seasons, Mark Morris football could celebrate a win. And this time the Monarchs didn’t have to hold their breath.

The Monarchs took down Castle Rock 48-14 Thursday evening at Longview Memorial Stadium, winning all three phases to lay the foundation for what could be the Monarchs’ best year in some time.

“Last week we got the football and looked OK at times but didn’t do enough,” MM coach Shawn Perkins said. “This week we did a much better job at practice. And in the game, we were more intense and a lot more with it.”

Mark Morris ran well, passed well, and played good defense. Special teams, though, was perhaps the largest element in the win, with booming kickoffs — four touchbacks — and stellar returns proving vital.

“Not that we never emphasized it, but we have a renewed emphasis in it,” Perkins said. “Kids are taking it more serious, and it shows.”

Quarterback and returner Dawson Fritz took the game’s opening kick from the MM 20 to the Castle Rock 45, a net gain of 35 yards that won’t show in the box score. It’s one of the reasons the Monarchs scored in the opening two minutes on a 2-yard scurry from running back Noah Mejia.

“Special teams is always huge. I think it gives us a lot of momentum heading into our offense,” said Mejia, who finished with 102 yards on 16 carries. “We have a guaranteed PAT and Fritz returning it, that gives us some real momentum.”

The team worked on special teams before, during, and after practice, Fritz said, and the results pleased everyone wearing navy and columbia blue.

“They really stepped up this week,” Fritz said. “If they do well, it really gives us momentum.”

Mark Morris also finished with 292 yards on the ground, providing the bulk of the offense’s production. Ethan West had touchdown runs of 10 and 2 yards, as he finished with 69 yards on seven carries. He also made six of his seven point-after tries.

Keoni Makaiwi had a 6-yard touchdown run and finished with 10 carries and 48 yards. Fritz had a 1-yard touchdown run, and went 4 for 4 passing for 67 yards.

“We have athletes, and our offensive line can get going,” Mejia said. “When they get going, it’s scary.”

And then the pass opens up.

With two seconds left in the first half, and following a holding penalty which nullified a 31-yard completion to Jack Shipley, the pair did it again.

Shipley streaked down the right side, and Fritz lofted the ball his way, for six more points on a 41-yard score as the Monarchs entered the locker room with a 27-0 lead.

To the Rockets’ credit, there was no throwing in the towel, no hanging of heads, and no half efforts. That pleased first-year coach Aaron Gehring.

“It’s really big, especially coming off that tough loss against Hoquiam,” Gehring said. “Keeping the 1s in and seeing that they can move the ball and have success, it’s important.”

Gehring added that having everyone compete, regardless of the situation, was particularly important for the younger players. Having the upperclassmen and captains fight for one another, Gehring said, should pay dividends down the line.

Sophomore receiver Wyatt Partridge is one of the younger guys who seemed to feed off the relentless spirit the Rockets displayed. Partridge finished with 110 rushing yards on six carries, including a 40-yard rush outside of the tackles, which followed a similarly big run on an inside toss. Jayden Behrendsen scored the game’s final touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Caleb mullen.

Castle Rock (0-2) hosts Tenino next Friday, while MM (1-1) invites Fort Vancouver over on the same night.

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