Photo by Brian Paglia / Junior quarterback Courtney Heard will get the start for Morrow in its season-opener against Campbell tonight.
What Morrow football looks like on opening night from year to year has been a mystery recently, a product of going through eight coaches in the past 10 seasons.
Each coach has brought unique offensive and defensive philosophies, and so the Mustangs’ look on the field has wavered, though the result has not.
Now, it’s Leroy Foster’s turn.
And yet, Foster isn’t as concerned about Morrow’s style as he is about seeing signs of progress and cohesion going into the Mustangs’ season-opener tonight against Campbell at Tara Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
“I hope we’re going to look like we’ve come together,” Foster said. “I’m not looking for a Super Bowl-caliber team, but I’m looking for us coming together, gelling and moving on our way to get our goal of having a winning season. We’re just going to take it one game at a time.”
Foster hasn’t had much time to get Morrow in the kind of shape he’d like entering his first season as head coach. Foster was promoted to head coach when Morrow couldn’t hold on to original hire Andre Pickering.
A health and physical education teacher, Pickering was a casualty of economic conditions that forced Clayton County Public Schools to eliminate teaching positions.
So Morrow turned to Foster, who was brought in under Pickering as part of an entire overhaul of the football coaching staff.
Foster came with an impressive resume from his coaching days in Florida. He guided Pahokee High School to three state championship in five seasons from 2002-06. He was a Division II assistant coach in Illinois and a high school defensive coordinator in Michigan before joining Morrow.
But Foster just signed his teaching contract August 15.
He had three days to prepare Morrow before its scrimmage against Mount Zion.
The Mustangs lost 20-7, but Foster saw reason for encouragement.
“Those guys realized that we were in the game,” he said, “but we had too many mental mistakes and silly errors. The main thing that cost us were all our penalities.”
Morrow’s defense in particular showed marked improvement after allowing 266 points over the first six games last season. Mount Zion scored but did so with good field position thanks to the bevy of Mustangs penalities.
“We learned that we’ve definitely improved from last year,” senior Cameron Giles said. “But we still need to play disciplined and play as a team in order to win.”
That’s what Foster goes into tonight looking for. He settled on junior quarterback Courtney Heard to get the start, but said junior Jose Cervantes will also get substantial playing time. Practice in the week since the Mount Zion scrimmage has been “pretty intense.”
Giles said the team, which is coming off its second 0-10 season in three years, is starting to develop confidence.
“I feel good about it,” Giles said. “Team morale is really high. So I’m feeling good about going in, make sure we run our plays, be disciplined and not get any silly penalities.”
Campbell should provide a good early-season barometer for Morrow to gauge its progress. The Spartans went 1-9 last season and are searching for the same things the Mustangs are.
“I think the biggest thing about our football team is trying to come together as a football team — a team of young men with character,” Campbell second-year coach Harris Rainbow told The Marietta Daily Journal. “Our program has drifted over the last few years, and we want to get it going back in the right direction.”