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Players starting to buy into Mortonson's system at Morrow

By Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

Two troops of raw talent passed each other on the practice fields at Morrow High School. One, the Morrow Mustangs varsity football team, once an omnipotent force in high school football, trotted off through a narrow path shaded by the nearby oak trees. The other, the Morrow Middle School seventh grade team, where Morrow head coach Larry Mortonson began his coaching career 21 years ago, came out of the shade and prepared for their game.

It was a brief meeting of the present and the future, a meeting of two teams inundated with inexperienced players that are being counted on to play significant roles.

Mortonson knew that when he took the Morrow job. He knew the Mustangs (0-2, 0-1) graduated a bevy of players from last year when the Mustangs went 1-9.

"I knew they were losing quite a few people," Mortonson said. "To me that's a positive in the sense that they're hungry. They're wanting to get out there and wanting to perform."

Morrow's main skill positions are now filled with players getting their first experience as starters: Quarterback Fred Hall, and running backs Benard Agur and Dijon Prichett.

"Since I've come up behind a lot of senior quartebacks I just learned from them," Hall said. "Now it's my turn."

Hall's transition has been particularly drastic. With Mortonson instituting a new offense based out of the Pro-I formation, Hall has had to assimilate into a new system. With the graduation of last year's quarterback, Hall has had to elevate his role from back-up to leader of a program craving for a renaissance.

"He's the leader now," Mortonson said. "He's got to take control of [the game]. From day one he was the general that steps into the huddle and leads these guys. We don't ever want to try and manage the game. We're always aggressive and attacking to put points up on the board. He does a great job taking charge."

But Mortonson has tailored his playing calling to ease Hall's transition into the tarting quarterback role. Mortonson has yet to introduce a lot of his offensive packages; he's still waiting to introduce plays out of the shotgun.

Through the first two weeks Mortonson has emphasized the run game with the anticipation that Hall and the passing game would have to endure a learning curve with the new offense. And the growing pains have been evident. The Mustangs have lost two in a row on the road to open the season and have been outscored 69-20 by Jonesboro and Westlake.

But Mortonson hasn't wavered in his confidence with Hall.

"The thing about Fred is that he's a smart quarterback," Mortonson said. "He picks things up real well. For somebody who's never gone through this type of offense and really been through the learning curve of reading coverages and blitzes, he's doing well."

Center Hill Close to Return

Center Forest Hill, who's been out since he twisted his ankle two days before the Mustang's season-opener against Jonesboro, should be ready to return in a week, Mortonson said.