STEVENSON, Ala. — If North Jackson is to continue its playoff run and extend the football season for its seniors, it will need a nasty night from its most experienced lineman.
Senior left guard Anthony Morris, one of three seniors on the offensive line and a three-year starter, has earned an on-field reputation that is quite opposite from his normal personality.
"He's nasty on the field," Chiefs coach Shawn Peek said. "He hardly ever speaks anywhere else, but when he's on the field we call him 'the mauler' because that's who he becomes. He's the example we use for the young guys on how we want them to play in there. If I had a team of players like him, I'd coach 100 more years."
After a difficult regular season in which the Chiefs lost four games, the most in 14 seasons but all to state-ranked opponents, they rallied twice last week on the road to win their Class 4A first-round game. Tonight the Chiefs (7-4) host top-ranked Oneonta (11-0) and will need Morris and the front line to control the clock by maintaining possession of the ball.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Morris has a first-year starter next to him at tackle and a freshman with only two games of starting experience to his right, playing center. Morris likely will play a lot on the defensive side as well. With more size and strength needed up front last week, he played 100 total snaps.
North Jackson averages a balanced 188 passing and 173 rushing yards this season, scoring five touchdowns per game. However, Oneonta, which returned 18 starters from last year's state runner-up squad, averages more than 200 rushing and 200 passing yards and is outscoring its last nine opponents 54-9.
"They're the No. 1 team and they think they're unbeatable. I like that challenge," Morris said. "I hope they put their 300-pound lineman on my side because I want to test myself against him. I want to hit him a few times and see how he reacts. That's what I like about football -- it's the only sport I know where I get to hit people as hard as I can.
"We've played a lot of tough teams and that's got us ready for the playoffs. That helped us last week in a tough game, and I hope it helps this week."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...