Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Morton Returns To Laguna Creek

Here's the first in a series of football previews I'm writing in the weeks leading up to the start of the high school football season:

Jerry Brown made a return to the governor’s office in 2010. Thus, in 2012, it makes perfect sense that Dave Morton can return to the football sidelines at Laguna Creek High School.

Dave Morton (red T-shirt) returns after a 14 year hiatus
from coaching at Laguna Creek
After 14 years away from coaching, the man who was the school’s first football coach will hope to invigorate a program that has won ten games combined over the past three seasons after winning nine contests in 2008. 

While it’s good to be back in football, I’ve still been on campus,” Morton told the Citizen a few months ago. “I’m older and wiser now, but still very passionate about everything.”

Morton replaces longtime coach Mark Nill, who resigned after last season in which the Cardinals went 4-6 overall and failed to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

“I can’t even begin to explain or measure how much I missed the game,” said Morton. “I miss the relationships with the kids, because that’s what football is all about. I had to work very hard to keep it put to the side all these years.

Thus, when athletic director Brian LoForte approached Morton with the idea of returning to the sidelines, Morton jumped at the opportunity.

“I’m still trying to find the answer to why I came back,” Morton said. “I guess because I was needed.”

So, going into the 2012 season Morton has a bit of a disadvantage in that he spent the spring and summer months just getting to know his football players. He admits he never attended a football game last season and only two games in the past 14 years.

“Kids will be kids,” said Morton. “All we need to do is play hard for 48 minutes and we’ll be alright.”

Offense –
Do-it-all quarterback Kyle Shepherd, who threw for 1,155 yards and ran for 805 yards, graduated, as did Laguna Creek’s top three rushers from last season. Cecil Williams II will be the Cardinals’ quarterback this season and Deshun Williams will be his top receiver. But, look for Morton to bring back “old school” football and put it in his offense this fall.

“I’m an ears-bent-back, on-fire guy and we’ll play like that,” Morton said.

When two-a-days begin next week, Morton will find out what kind of football players he’ll have.

“We’ve got some size, we’ve got some speed, we’ve got some skill, it’s just inexperience,” Morton said.

Defense –
Devont’e Castex may be one of the best defensive players in the Delta Valley Conference. He’ll be the center of the Laguna Creek defense playing at inside linebacker.

“We’re rather youthful,” Morton described his defensive squad. “But, then we’ve got some athletes. We’ve got some speed.”

Coach –
 It may be his first year back after not coaching for a decade-and-a-half, but Morton’s coaching experience is just as equal amongst his Delta Valley Conference coaching colleagues. As an assistant under Max Miller at Cordova High School during the 1980’s, his teams were some of the very best the Sac-Joaquin Section has ever seen.

“My goals are the same as always,” said Morton. “I’m still the same person, and I want to put a product on the field on Friday night that everyone associated with the school and districts can be proud of.”

Though many high school teams have been implementing spread offenses more and more in the past few years, Morton says the core of football remains the same.

“Changes are like fashion,” Morton said. “Pants will be pants and the kids will still block and tackle. Nothing has changed.”

Schedule –
Morton said the 2012 schedule will remain the same as last season. They open Aug. 31 with Florin and in week three will take on Rosemount, both Metro Conference schools. 

Despite the weak reputation of the teams in that conference, Morton thinks he’ll have five tough games to open 2012.

“We’re the lowest enrolled school in the schedule,” he said. “For me, every game will be treated like a playoff game.”

Their “litmus test” will likely come in the non-conference finale against Jesuit, who should field one of its best teams over the past few years.

Prediction – 4-6 overall, 0-5 DVC
It is very likely the Cardinals will repeat the same thing they did a year ago, win its first three games. Plus, with Sheldon a bit down from a year ago, the Cardinals could be 4-0 before closing out September with a home game against the Marauders.

That momentum hopefully will result in competitive games in the DVC, but on paper, the Cardinals don’t look as good as the other clubs in the conference, especially with improved teams at Davis and Monterey Trail this fall.

“I believe in playing with class and dignity,” Morton said. “You’ll have to come out and watch us play this year.”

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