As a youngster watching Mead football, Adam Morris idolized Jason Ailor, until last year the Greater Spokane League career rushing and scoring leader.
“He came to our junior high and wasn’t much taller than me,” said the 5-foot-7, 165-pound Panther, who, like Ailor, is small by most football standards. “I thought, ‘Wow, I can play this game.”’
Morris won’t approach Ailor’s 2,567 rushing yards or 37 touchdowns because of Mead’s different offense.
But Morris has had a similar impact as a two-way, three-year starter for the Mead varsity. He wears No. 2 on his jersey, like Ailor.
“I watched him play, wanted to wear his number and when coach asked me, I got the opportunity,” said Morris.
In his previous two years, Morris rushed for 380 yards. Last year, when Mead went to a four-receiver passing game, as a slotback he caught 29 balls for 525 yards and four touchdowns.
“Last year was the first time I ever received a football,” said Morris. “It was new and I didn’t like it. But I’ve come to like it as much as running.”
Coach Mike McLaughlin went to the passing game last year and has elected to stick with it because he likes it and because Mead, like Morris, is so quick.
“We need him to touch the ball as much as possible,” said McLaughlin. “He will carry some, but primarily we will throw to him.”
New quarterback Jason Lewis has several receivers: Morris, Matt Sturm, Merrill Alley, Alvin Shaler and Jarett Robbins.
Fullbacks Scott McGlocklin and Larry Carnahan, along with linemen Cody Ferguson, Travis Amann, Scott Sulpizio, Spencer Smith, Jeremy Davidson and Erich Reyburn are experienced.
A rebuilt defense, which returns only Carnahan, Morris and Alley, has been hit by injury.
Newcomers Jeff Dunlap in the secondary, linebacker Justus Ehlert and linemen Eric Strom and Mark Romney will be tested at 5 p.m. today when the Panthers and Rogers open the season at Joe Albi Stadium.
“I’m most impressed with the chemistry of the team,” said McLaughlin. “It’s by far the best in three or four years.”
Morris explained that this is the first time his classmates have been together since undefeated eighth and ninth grade seasons.
“I don’t think anyone knows our talent,” he said. “We have a lot of speed on the team and everyone worked hard in the off-season.”
Morris made the varsity football team as a sophomore, starting at defensive back and later as a running back.
Said McLaughlin, “Not many start for us and he did both ways. I’ve never been around a sophomore who made as few mistakes as he made. He had an understanding of the game and was a great decision maker.”
It was a dream come true for an athlete for whom football was always his first choice.
“I watched it on television and went to games,” he said. “I always wanted to be in that situation. Starting as a sophomore was really special.”
Morris is a year-round athlete who had an impact on last year’s league champion basketball team and in baseball. This summer he played in the American Legion state tournament.
This year his goal is to help keep Mead’s sixyear playoff string intact and to reach state.
“No one wants to be remembered as the class that was not in the playoffs,” he said. “I want the opportunity (to get to state). It would be a great way to end my career here.”
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