JOLIET – Even though the Morris football team lost a bulk of its offensive production from last season’s Class 5A state semifinal team, it doesn’t mean the Redskins will struggle to move the ball this year.
Case in point, Morris put on a pretty good show Friday when the Redskins took on Class 8A playoff qualifier Joliet West in a 7-on-7 matchup.
Gone from last year’s team, which finished 10-3, are leading ground-gainers Michael Feeney, Keagan Sobol and Michael Gerischer as well as quarterback Ricky Del Favero – basically the entire backfield.
However, coach Alan Thorson’s club showed the cupboard is not bare, as new quarterback Mitch Mayberry was able to connect with a stable of receivers that included Kameron Dransfeldt, Payton Voitik, Tyler Spiezio, Briar Russell and Austin Hatcher, among others, who showed they have the ability to both get themselves open and catch the ball when it’s thrown their way.
“We have looked really good so far this summer,” Thorson said. “We know we lost a lot of our offense from last year with Keagan, the two Michaels and Ricky, but the guys we have coming back have really worked hard and learned what we expect out of them.”
Other than Friday’s outing against Joliet West, Morris has had one-on-one 7-on-7 matchups with Providence Catholic and Wilmington, as well as a 32-team tournament event at Northern Illinois University in which the Redskins finished fifth against many Class 7A and 8A teams.
“We like to play the bigger schools during the summer,” Thorson said. “It lets us see the kind of speed we just can’t practice against and probably won’t see much of during the season. We know we won’t see a team as fast as Joliet West on our regular schedule, so going up against them is really good preparation for us.”
One player who stood out offensively was Dransfeldt, who had a few receptions that went for big yardage. Voitik was also able to work himself free for some long gains, while Spiezio caught nearly every pass that was thrown his way in the short- to mid-length routes.
The defense also had a good showing in the duel against West, with Dransfeldt recording an interception in the end zone on the Tigers’ opening drive after they had driven the length of the field to get into the red zone. Dransfeldt, Kaden Laurie and Hatcher were the linebackers for the Morris defense, while the backfield consisted of Voitik and Blake Breyman at safety and Trevor Tanke and Sean Brady at cornerback.
“Defensively, we looked good,” Thorson said. “Especially since we didn’t have our defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback. Once we get the line in there, guys like Avery Hoffman, Alonzo Enriques and Cody Baldridge are going to put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks and make them throw a lot sooner than they have been in these 7-on-7s. That will only make our defensive backfield better.”
With the first game just a little more than a month away, Morris is eager to get things rolling and is looking forward to another possible deep playoff run.
“It’s hard to believe the season is so close already,” Thorson said. “It won’t be long and we will have the pads on. These kids – and us coaches, too – are getting anxious to put the pads on and see what we’ve got.
“There might be people out there that don’t think we will be all that good with what we lost from last year, but I think we will surprise them. This is a good group of kids we have here.”