Of Guyer’s 22 starters, there is only one who started two seasons ago when the Wildcats fell 24-21 to Cibolo Steele in the Class 5A Division II state championship game at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium.
Perhaps that played a large part in senior tackle Patrick Morris’ reaction after the Wildcats’ thrilling state semifinal win over Tyler John Tyler last Friday night.
“I was excited, but I knew there was more work to be done than beating John Tyler,” Morris said. “That’s not my goal.”
His — and the rest of the team’s — goal is simple: Beat Georgetown on Saturday in the 4A Division I title game and become the first state champion in school history.
“One thing I definitely remember about beating Longview [in the 2010 state semifinal] was everybody was just glad we made it to state,” Morris said. “I’m happy we made it, but I’ll be really happy on Saturday after we win.”
Head coach John Walsh in a way had to defend Morris’ teammates to the senior leader amidst the chaotic postgame celebration after their 57-53 win over John Tyler.
“I did hear him after the game when the Blue Crew [Guyer’s student section] was rushing the field and everyone’s crying, he was real calm and was just like, ‘Hey coach, why is everybody acting like we’ve never been here before?’
“I said, ‘Patrick, you’re the only one that has really been here before.’”
It’s just a small example of the leadership role Morris, a TCU pledge, has grown into — a vast contrast from his sophomore year when he was little more than a physically imposing brute who had just quit the varsity tennis team to try football full time.
“Football was just fun because I just got to line up and hit people,” said Morris, a 6-2, 280-pounder with impressive strength. “Sophomore year, I honestly didn’t know what I was doing besides that.
“My footwork and hand placement and just my knowledge of the game and strength have all gotten a lot better.”
But ask anyone in the Guyer program what Morris’ most valuable asset to the team is, and they will say it isn’t the strength that has allowed him to power-clean 385 pounds — a number rarely found in major college programs.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mitch Stovall said Morris is the strongest player to ever come through Guyer’s program, and the best of three or four guys he’s coached in his nearly 20 years in the profession who is NFL material. But most of all, Stovall said, he’s just downright mean.
“He’s going to try to hurt you between the whistles,” Stovall said. “He’s not going to do anything dirty, but he’s going to try to physically drive you into the ground between the whistles. And the rest of those kids [on the offensive line], if Patrick wasn’t here, I don’t know, they might have that demeanor but they might not.
“That’s Patrick bleeding off on the rest of them. When the ball’s snapped, they’re trying to tear your throat out. When the whistle blows, they stop, go back to the huddle and wait for the next play. That’s Patrick.”
Morris, Walsh and Stovall all referenced a point in the John Tyler game when the Lions’ first-team all-state defensive end Tyus Bowser seemingly tapped out late in the game after going against Morris for much of the night.
“I definitely try to get my guy on the ground and make sure he doesn’t want to get up,” Morris said. “The more I do that, the easier it is for me. Like last game, Tyus Bowser was over me and toward the end of the game he wouldn’t come over to my side anymore. He was arguing with the other [defensive end]. It breaks the other person’s will more than anything, which is going to make more momentum for our offensive line.”
That momentum was clear last Friday when Guyer rushed for a school-record 612 yards as Morris and the offensive line had their way with John Tyler’s front seven. The Wildcats had a 300-yard rusher (Jerrod Heard) and two 100-yard rushers in D.J. Breedlove and Richard Whitaker.
The advantage was so clear, in fact, that on Guyer’s final scoring drive, with the Wildcats trailing 53-50 in the final minutes, they completed just two passes on a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive to take the lead for good with just more than a minute to play.
“We were going to stick with our running game,” Walsh said. “If you can hand the ball off for eight yards, that’s what you do. You don’t risk a pass just to be pretty. We have [wide receiver Ellis Jefferson] out there. We have [receivers] Josh Harris and Preston [Thrailkill], but when you get in these money games and you can run the football, then you run the football.”
The game against the Lions broke the school rushing record of 444 yards by nearly 200 yards, but the week prior against Birdville nearly saw the record fall as the Wildcats rushed for 426 yards.
That left many to wonder if the Wildcats could top their performance against Birdville in the state semifinal, but no one could’ve seen what was coming.
And no one can see them topping that eye-popping rushing performance against Georgetown. Well, no one except for Morris.
“That’s what people said after Birdville,” Morris said. “We ran for 400-something, and after Birdville we worked really hard to get better and we ran for 600. Now we’re working hard to get better again, and we’re gonna go run for 700.”
Like his nasty demeanor, his undying confidence rubs off on his teammates.
“When there’s something that goes wrong, we all lean on Patrick,” Breedlove said. “He’s a great team leader.
“He gets better each day. He doesn’t slack on anything. He’s always giving full effort, and that’s what we love from Patrick.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .