GARY | You can be up to your chin straps in Division I recruits, but if you don't play lock-down defense, your postseason will be shorter than alligator arms.
West Side has a gift list of D-1 prospects, but coach Jason Johnson's West Side Cougars came into Friday's date with Times No. 8 Morton averaging 49 points per game while allowing 29.8.
Morton was giving up 8.3 a game but that quickly went out the window.
In a wild, thrill-a-minute shootout taking nearly 3 1/2 hours, Morton nipped the Cougars 63-56 on Torey Armstrong's 3-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Dickey with :01 left to play.
Armstrong threw for 152 yards and two scores and ran for 115 yards and two more but was not the only star in Morton's galaxy.
Workhorse Kenneth Coleman had 17 carries for 259 yards and three touchdowns for the Governors (6-1). Darius Coty had four catches for 69 yards, and Mark Snorton had nine tough carries for 66 yards and a pair of scores.
The offensive free-for-all took on a somber moment in the final 5:03 when Morton junior free safety Chiqwian Lee suffered a possible neck injury and lay on the field motionless for several minutes until being taken away by ambulance.
Morton trailed 34-33 at the half, missing two PAT kicks and having a drive fizzle at the West Side 4.
The second half was more of the same as both teams continued trading touchdowns, while their defenses waited in the parking lot.
Ramone Atkins passed for 233 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars (3-4), and big-play Henry Smith rushed for 179 yards and four TDs in the losing effort.
JonVea' Johnson had four receptions for 115 yards and a pair of scores as the teams combined for 45 first downs and 1,163 yards of total offense.
"That is a hell of a team," Morton coach Roy Richards said of the Cougars. "Their offense is unbelievable. We couldn't stop them. I don't know who could."
It was of little consolation for West Side skipper Jason Johnson.
"That's been our issue all year -- stopping people," Johnson said. "Until we do, it's going to be hard to win games like this."