Division I: McKinley’s Joe Morgan has quickly joined the elite receivers in Bulldog history
Thursday, November 10, 2005 <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>By Chris Beaven REPOSITORY SPORTS WRITER
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Repository Bob Rossiter McKinley’s Joe Morgan
McKinley vs. Elyria
Division I, Region 2
7 p.m. Saturday
Byers Field, Parma
CANTON - It starts with a look.
McKinley receiver Joe Morgan steps into the huddle and sees it from quarterback Dan Grimsley.
“When he makes eye contact with me as he calls the play, I know,” Morgan said.
What Morgan knows is the pass play likely will result in the football being thrown his way. When that happens, everyone knows there’s a good chance Morgan will end up in the end zone.
Morgan has set a single-season McKinley record with 12 touchdown catches, helping the Bulldogs reach Saturday’s Division I regional semifinals. McKinley (11-0) meets Elyria (9-2) in the 7 p.m. game at Parma’s Byers Field.
Morgan’s remarkable season has played a huge part in McKinley averaging 40.2 points per game this season.
The senior is the deep threat every high school football team wishes it had to stretch defenses. Defenses, though, tend to break when Morgan sprints downfield. He has nine TD receptions of 45 yards or longer in putting together a season that would surprise most.
Just don’t expect Morgan to be too shocked.
“I really did expect this,” Morgan said. “I set my goals high and try to be the best I can. Once I got the (TD catch) record, I wanted to do better.”
Morgan’s status as one of Ohio’s elite long jumpers has him “used to competing at the highest levels.” He was third at the Division I state meet in the long jump last spring, leaping a personal-best 22-feet-10.
Morgan saw significant action during last year’s playoff run when the Bulldogs reached the state finals. He caught a TD pass in last year’s regional final win over Brunswick.
“Once you’ve played in a playoff atmosphere, a regular season game is not that big of a deal,” Morgan said.
So when this season began, Morgan was ready to make an impact.
“I was motivated from last year,” he said. “I wanted to get in more than I did. When I did get a chance to start this year, I wanted to show why I should’ve been playing more last year by doing good this year.”
Morgan has 34 catches for 923 yards. He ranks second all-time at McKinley for receiving yards in a season.
A key to his success is the chemistry Morgan has developed with Grimsley, also a first-year starter. They played together on the junior varsity team, hooking up for a number of touchdowns at that level.
“We continued working a lot over the summer together,” Morgan said.
That pays off when Morgan gets the look from Grimsley.
“I see that, and it makes me focus even more,” Morgan said.
Next, he focuses on the defense.
“I want to see where the safety’s at,” Morgan said. “I don’t worry as much about the cornerback. I want to get away from the safety.”
Once Morgan splits the safety and cornerback, his eyes lock in. “I’m thinking, ‘Look the ball in. Catch and tuck, catch and run.’ ”
After that, Morgan usually makes the grab. And one in three catches turned into TDs.
Morgan, though, dropped one of those potential TD passes. It happened against Massillon when he ran by a Tiger defender but couldn’t hang on to the ball.
“You’ve got to learn to forget about it,” Morgan said.
He admits that drop bothered him the entire game.
“But I know you’ve got to put it behind you,” Morgan said. “If you keep thinking about it, you’ll keep dropping passes.”
Morgan put it behind him last week when he burned Brunswick for a 60-yard TD that gave McKinley a 14-0 lead. The Bulldogs won 35-17.
That type of ability has a number of college interested in Morgan. Illinois offered him a scholarship. He talks weekly with Ohio State, Michigan State and Bowling Green.
“I’ve dreamed about playing in the NFL since I was little,” Morgan said. “I’m sure probably every kid has that dream. I’ve just got to keep working.”
Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail:
Topping the list
McKinley’s receivers with more than 1,000 career yards
Name, years played No. Yds Avg. TDs
Reggie Corner, 2000-01 87 1,444 16.6 17
Matt Curry, 1995-97 88 1,325 15.1 10
James Gamble, 1995-97 57 1,201 21.1 14
Juan Taylor, 1984-85 69 1,092 15.8 6
Andre Hooks, 1998-99 57 1,081 19.0 9
Fred Mathews, 1964-65 52 1,057 20.3 11
Joe Morgan, 2004-05 39 1,039 26.6 13
One more yard
McKinley’s single-season receiving leaders, ranked by yards
Name, year No. Yds TDs
Matt Curry, 1997 52 924 10 Joe Morgan, 2005 34 923 12 Andre Hooks, 1998 43 844 9