MORTON — The Washington Panthers crept their way into Carper Field and rushed their way to a 40-20 Mid-Illini Conference football victory over host Morton on Friday night.
The Panthers' defense had allowed an average of 13.8 points per game and that unit showed up again against the Potters, who had averaged 43.6 points per game offensively.
"Our defensive line played pretty well tonight," Washington coach Darrell Crouch said. "Our offensive line played well tonight, too, and the biggest thing was to come out with a win tonight."
Washington took an early 6-0 lead when senior running back Josh Schellenberg ran for a 44-yard touchdown. Schellenberg ran for a game-high 132 yards on 16 carries.
"Just pounding it down the throat felt great," Schellenberg said. "Our line was doing great the whole game. There were holes everywhere."
Morton responded when junior Jarrett Crider scampered in for a 22-yard touchdown run to give Morton a 7-6 lead in the first quarter.
The Panthers recaptured the lead when junior Brendan Durr plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown run, but Crider returned the kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and a 14-12 Potter lead.
That would be the last lead for the Potters (6-3, 4-3).
Washington's ground game was so successful that the team only passed three times. The Panthers rushed 62 times for 373 yards, 252 of them coming in the first half.
"Our kids played hard and hustled the whole way," Crouch said. "Our goal was to run the ball and not let those guys on the field."
The Panthers (7-2, 6-1) had 23 total first downs to Morton's 13 as their ground attack took control of the contest.
"We don't match up well with those guys," Morton coach Tim Brilley said. "We have to get creative and I think Canton exposed us last week. They are bigger and stronger than us, and it's just the way it is. As the game went on, I believe we improved and our kids battled. We battled defensively and they ran at us for all four quarters.
"We adjusted but they beat us. We have to treat our next game like any other game and we're in a one-week season now. We will give our next opponent our best shot and they will be either better than us or not. Again, I feel that we improved."
Panther juniors Sam Walter ran for 105 yards on 18 carries, Brendan Durr had 81 yards on 15 carries and quarterback Caleb Fisher ran 13 times for 55 yards.
Morton quarterback and two-way player junior Nolan Donald ran 16 times for 121 yards while Crider ended up with 79 yards on five carries.
Norm Ulrich Jr. can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NormUlrichJr.