MORRIS – It’s time to start the football season, and Morris will open with a road game at Coal City. It will be the first time that the two neighboring schools have met in a varsity football game.
For that reason, the excitement that surrounds a season opener has increased.
“It’s opening night, and it’s Coal City,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “It’s a good thing for both towns. I know you don’t have to go very far here in Morris to hear people talking about it, and I am sure it’s that way in Coal City, too.
“Our kids are ready to go. It’s game week, and we can tell at practice that this is a different team than we have been seeing. The kids are fired up and ready to go.”
Thorson knows that the Coalers will bring everything they have into the opening game, and he hopes his team is up to the challenge.
“Coal City has some very good athletes,” he said. “Their running back [Connor Skubic] is a real tough runner who has good speed to go with his size. We know their quarterback [Payton Hutchings] has a great arm, and they have some good receivers.
“It’s definitely going to be a good test for our defense to play against a team that will be able to run the ball as well as Coal City does, but also isn’t afraid to put it in the air.”
When Morris has the ball, the Redskins will rely on the running back duo of Chatten Dryfhout and Austin Hatcher, with Brandon Phelps and Tyler Petty mixing in, as well. Senior quarterback Mitchell Mayberry returns after leading the team to a second-place finish in Class 4A last season, and will have receivers such as Alex Cameron, Jacob Overbeck and Zach Reddinger to choose from.
But, as usual, the difference may be up front.
“A lot of our success on offense will be how well our offensive line can step up and control the line of scrimmage,” Thorson said. “We need them to perform well in order to move the ball.”
Thorson thinks that the start may be another key.
“It’s the first game, and both teams will probably have a little of that first-game rust,” he said. “What we want to do is limit our mistakes, whether it’s penalties or turnovers. We want the kids to get comfortable early, have success on first and second downs and go from there.”
For Coal City, the opportunity to play against Morris was too good to pass up.
“We play Morris in pretty much every other sport,” Coal City football coach and athletic director Dan Hutchings said. “They have a great program and tradition, and we embrace the challenge of playing them in football.”