Coach Larry Foster says quarterback Courtney Heard, left, and tailback Larry Hodnit will be looked upon as leaders for Morrow’s quest to use 2013 as a turning point season. (Staff Photo: Gabriel Stovall)
MORROW — Larry Foster almost sounds like a broken record, or a CD with a scratch in it.
Every time he gets asked about the difference between this year’s Morrow football team and last season’s version, he comes up with almost the exact same answer.
“It really is a time thing,” said Foster, entering his second year as Morrow’s head coach. “They’ve had a full year of growth in our program now. Last year, leading up to this point, we were just at two weeks before we got thrown to the Lions.”
Or the Spartans, as in the Spartans from Campbell High. Foster wasn’t officially hired until almost exactly 14 days prior to the school’s season opener against the Region 4-AAAAAA school, and it showed.
After managing to keep pace in the first half, the Spartans erupted in the last two quarters of the game, en route to a 35-6 victory at Tara Stadium.
Tonight, Morrow will make the return trip to Smyrna to face Campbell again in its season opener, but this time with a little bit better grasp of what it may take to come out with a win.
“This is going to be a great game to test us and to see how far we’ve come,” Foster said. “Campbell’s the type of team that’s very disciplined, and they’re going to sit around and wait for you to make a mistake, then pounce on you. That’s what happened to us last year. It’ll be interesting to see how we respond this year.”
So far, the Mustangs have shown signs of marked improvement, starting with a 40-13 victory over Mount Zion in last week’s scrimmage —the same Mount Zion team that bested them in last year’s preseason contest.
Senior quarterback Courtney Heard rushed and passed for over 100 yards. Fellow senior and starting tailback Larry Hodnit had a big game from an all-purpose yardage standpoint. And Foster didn’t try to hide his pleasure for what he saw from his team ahead of Friday’s opener.
“Last Friday was very rewarding, and even now it’s very rewarding to see all the work these young men have put in to get to where we are,” Foster said.
“We’re starting to become a program. And the heart that these young men have show, how they still stuck with us through thick and thin, taking all the ridicule from people who called us terrible, and still didn’t quit. To me that just shows the kind of heart these young men have. And hopefully it’ll start translating into some wins for us.”
DeMarcus Loman said he notices the difference in the team as well.
“I think this year, we’re just operating at a different tempo than last year,” Loman said. “There’s more positive energy out here this year. We’re coming together a lot more, and we’re ready to get out on the field and show what we can do.”
Loman, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver who also stars on the Mustangs’ resurgent basketball team, is the big play, deep threat target Foster believes will take his offense to new heights.
“He’s a big time player for us,” Foster said. “He’s getting some looks from places like Toledo and Akron, but he’s the kind of player that can start attracting more attention.”
He’s also growing as a leader. And he’ll lead Morrow’s group of wideouts against a fairly talented Campbell secondary that includes a standout in Central Florida commitment Mike Rogers. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound safety chose the Knights of the new American Athletic Conference, over such schools as Georgia Tech, Missouri, Mississippi State and Syracuse.
The Spartans will also have three year starter Ricky James returning at quarterback.
Both teams will be looking to capitalize on a 2012 season that featured more losses than wins, but also some close games that got away.
But Foster said there will be no revenge factor involved in this game. Just a football team that desperately wants to prove that it’s on the path back to high school football relevance.
“We’re leaving it all on the table this year,” Foster said. “Not just this game, but every game. We have nothing to prove and we have nothing to lose. We just want to win.”