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ROAD TO KICKOFF: Morrow keeps moving forward despite turmoil

Photo by Brian Paglia
Morrow quarterbacks Darius Wright (left) and Jose Cervantes practice throwing on the run during a recent practice. The Mustangs have as many as four quarterbacks still competing for the starting position.

Photo by Brian Paglia Morrow quarterbacks Darius Wright (left) and Jose Cervantes practice throwing on the run during a recent practice. The Mustangs have as many as four quarterbacks still competing for the starting position.

Morrow at a glance

Last year: 0-10

Summer progress: Morrow managed to handle another summer’s worth of turmoil when original head coaching hire Andre Pickering didn’t get a teaching contract. Player moral remains high and schemes are in place.

Work to do: Among all the turmoil at Morrow, finding a quarterback is paramount for the Mustangs. A group of four that includes Jose Cervantes, Charles Gibson, Courtney Heard and Darius Wright are competing for the starting spot.

Emerging player: Heard has caught the attention of the new coaching staff. The junior is a dual threat with his arm and legs and appears to have the most potential.

The headlines have said Forest Park is the moribund football program of Clayton County desperate for coaching stability, starving for success and waiting for a proud tradition to return.

But Morrow has just as many consecutive losing seasons, just as much coaching turmoil since its last winning season and just as much tradition waiting to be restored — maybe even more.

And so the Mustangs have trudged through another whirlwind offseason. They’ve gone through a mid-summer coaching change and still await the official promotion of Leroy Foster to head coach. They’ve learned another offense and defense. They’ve had to answer the question — again — of when the losing will stop.

Despite all the challenges Morrow faced this summer, players say they came through it with a better outlook on the season and a greater appreciation for each other.

“The team stayed together even though the coaching situation was a little shaky at times,” senior linebacker Cameron Giles said. “The team still stayed together no matter what.”

“I feel like we came together as a team,” senior cornerback Akeitheon Whitner said. “Last year, everything was so scrambled. This year, everything’s organized. We’ve got great coaches and everybody out here is disciplined. I think we have a better chance of winning than we did last year.”

Morrow didn’t seem to have much of a chance last season. The Mustangs lost their first six games 266-0. Their closest loss was 7-0 against Banneker. Every other loss was by at least 20 points.

So, an overhaul was in order. Specifically, the coaching staff got a new look.

One of the new hires, offensive coordinator Tim Brew, came to Morrow after five years at East Paulding. The Raiders went 48-13 during Brew’s tenure and made back-to-back quarterfinals appearances.

Brew said the key to the Raiders’ success wasn’t cultivating five-star talent, but establishing a program’s tradition and discipline. That’s what helped East Paulding climb out of its first 15 years with just four winning seasons into playoff contender status.

“The big thing we’re giving these kids this summer is structure that we had at East Paulding,” Brew said. “We had a real good program there, but we didn’t have half the athletes. We were just more disciplined. We’re trying to bring discipline to these guys. It’s kind of loosey-goosey sometimes, so we’re just trying to change the culture.”

Players seem to be receptive to the changes so far.

They’ve enjoyed the new coaching staff’s philosophy in tailoring its offense and defense to the roster’s talent. That means a multiple looks out of the spread offense and a 3-4 defense thanks to depth at linebacker.

Suddenly, Morrow feels its on solid ground and capable of ending the losing.

“I expect to compete with everybody we play against,” Giles said. “I feel like the talent we have here is good enough to compete with anybody that we step on the field with. I expectation good things this year.”