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MORRISON, Ill. — For a team that has allowed fewer than five points per game for the season, the Morrison Mustangs have had a tendency to start slowly on defensive, and it happened again Saturday in the opening round of the Illinois Class 1A playoffs.

It didn’t last.

After allowing visiting Ridgewood to collect two first downs on its opening series, Morrison didn’t give up another one until it was way, way ahead as the Mustangs continued their defensive dominance in a 56-8 victory over the Spartans at Bud Cole Field.

Fullback Riley Wilkens scored four touchdowns, and Morrison piled up 329 yards rushing in its first playoff game in seven years, but it was the defense that turned the game into a rout not very far into the second quarter.

"Everyone just did their jobs," Morrison defensive lineman Cooper Darby said. "It took us a little while to get going. Just keep going and never stop."

Morrison coach Ryan Oetting said slow starts defensively have been a season-long affliction.

"Being the defensive coach, that bothers me for that first five or six minutes of the game …," he said. "We’ve just decided we’re going to play through it and they’ve finally gotten that message and the confidence rolls from there."

Once it rolled Saturday, it really rolled.

Ridgewood, making its first playoff appearance in the 10-year history of its co-op, finished the game with minus-39 yards rushing.

That, combined with three interceptions and some problems in the punting game, put the Spartans in awful field position for almost the entire game. Eight of Morrison’s 10 offensive possessions began in Ridgewood territory.

"Our defense really opened it up for our offense" said Wilkens, who rushed for 120 yards in 17 carries and also made his presence felt on the defensive side. "Those stops really gave our offense an ability to make points."

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The Mustangs got their first points on a safety when an errant punt snap sailed out of the end zone midway through the first quarter, but they quickly added to the lead with the help of that favorable field position.

They scored on drives of 37, 33, 25, 41 and 48 yards to make it 35-0 at halftime.

Wilkens’ last TD capped a 43-yard march to open the second half, and when Nick Allen returned an interception 32 yards for another score on the very next play, it was 50-0.

While Morrison normally makes extensive use of its speed on offense, it did most of its damage Saturday running between the tackles.

"If we can get to the edge, we try to do that," Oetting said. "Tonight with the field conditions, we figured it might be more of a north and south type running game."

Sophomore Hunter Newman added 99 yards in nine carries, including a 35-yard TD gallop in the second quarter.

The Mustangs (10-0) will host Kirkland Hiawatha, a 44-6 winner over Abingdon-Avon, in the second round next Saturday.

Ridgewood (6-4) finally got going a little bit in the second half behind the passing of Lucas Nodine. His 20-yard touchdown pass to Colton Stahl in the third quarter broke the shutout.

"It’s tough when the field position is all in the other direction," Spartans coach Bruce Redding said. "We’re a relatively young program, and the first time in the playoffs is a new experience for lot of the guys. There were some butterflies, but I’m very proud of all my young men."

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