If this Dylan Morris slinging-footballs-almost-70-yards thing doesn’t work out, Graham-Kapowsin’s running back knows of a replacement quarterback.
“That’s easy,” Micah Smith said. “Easy.”
Morris stepped in.
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“No, Micah can’t throw that far,” he said.
“I can throw that far – I can throw at least 60,” Smith said.
“… OK, not 68, though,” Morris said.
Then G-K’s top receiver, Tre Mason, talked about how he played quarterback in the third grade.
Morris shook his head and grinned. As the junior who recently committed to the University of Washington has discovered, everybody thinks they’re a quarterback.
Not everybody can throw a ball 68 yards like Morris did at an offseason camp.
“That’s just the one thing they don’t understand,” Morris deadpanned.
But at their normal positions – Morris the signal caller, Smith at running back and Mason at receiver – this could be the most entertaining offense in the state, even without five-star offensive lineman Foster Sarell, who is now at Stanford.
G-K coach Eric Kurle said he’s never had a team this loaded at the skill positions, and that’s what should make the Eagles, again, a contender in November.
“We haven’t had a quarterback like this and we haven’t had the depth at receiver and running back,” Kurle said. “We have never had that much depth and that much talent on the field.
“So we’re excited about that, and we have to use it right and see how it all works. And hopefully it all will.”
But he knows that’s a lot easier to express than to execute.
Graham-Kapowsin has already possessed some elite teams the past three years. It seemed like the Eagles got better and more talented with each, but they keep finishing further away from the Tacoma Dome.
They lost to state rushing leader Austin Urlacher and Chiawana in the semifinals in 2014; then to Lake Stevens and Georgia-bound Jacob Eason in the quarterfinals in 2015; and last year in the first round to Camas, which had state player of the year Jack Colletto at quarterback.
It’s easy to think the pressure is mounting and G-K’s title window is closing.
“That’s not what I’m about,” Kurle said. “People think, ‘You’ve got to win state championships,’ but we’ve done a lot of good things even if we haven’t won a state title. Things have to go really right to win it all. There are years we shouldn’t have even been in the playoffs, but our kids believed.
“There’s only so many people who win a state championship. I want to win one; shoot, we all want to. But it’s all got to fall into place because it’s not easy.”
This year’s team seems to have the pieces to make that fall in place, though.
Of the more than 60 schools in the South Sound, none had a tailback rush for more yards than Smith. He ran 228 times for 2,028 yards last season – which includes G-K’s district-playoff win against Kentlake and its loss to eventual-state-champion Camas in the first round of state.
Smith had the fourth-most regular-season rushing yards (1,713) in 4A South Puget Sound League history – behind G-K graduate Marcel Smith, Federal Way’s Chico McClatcher (now at UW) and Kent-Meridian’s Robin Miller.
But this offense can do a lot more than run the ball, which is why Kurle is planning to tweak the offense to cater to versatility – less pro-style smash mouth and more spread.
Kurle said some thought Morris had a down year as a sophomore – even though he completed 133 of 200 passes for 2,007 yards. His 66.5 completion percentage was best in the 4A SPSL.
But of his three incomplete passes against Camas, two were picked off – including one by Colletto near the goal line. In G-K’s loss to Sumner, the Eagles were driving and up 14-0 when one of his passes was intercepted for a touchdown.
“I really don’t feel like I had a down year,” Morris said. “Our run game is just so strong. I’m not going to complain about that. We were winning games and we’re rushing for 300 yards (315.3 per game, to be exact) and I’m fine throwing it nine times a game when we’re winning. We’re not going to have me throw it 60 times just for me to put up stats.
“He’s a team player,” Micah Smith said.
Morris hasn’t before been allowed to take control like he will this year. G-K’s offense typically limited him to two reads, Kurle said, and that won’t be the case with the Eagles being eight receivers deep this year – including receiver-turned-running back Smith.
“Last year it was the year of the bull,” Smith said. “This year I think it’s Air Raid.”
And Morris is more than a big arm.
“He’s a smart player,” said Bellarmine Prep coach and former Curtis state-champion quarterback Brian Jensen. “He’s got a savvyness about him. If he needs to unload one he can throw it from hash to sideline. I certainly haven’t seen anyone who can throw it that far.
“But some guys have a pipe like that and they throw it like that every time. He’s got different release points and he can make all those different touch throws and on a rope and it all fits. He is a quarterback. He’s fun to watch, man.”
And G-K still has all those running components from last year’s offense.
“Everyone on this team is unselfish,” said Mason, who has the third-most receiving yards (622) of any returning wide receiver in the 4A SPSL. “If we’re running the ball a lot during the game, me and Dylan are not complaining about that. If we’re passing a lot, Micah doesn’t complain, and he hasn’t with this new offense all offseason.”
“This year we’re going to throw the ball, but there might be times where we are going to run it and Dylan deals with that great,” Kurle said. “He does as well as any quarterback I’ve ever had.”
The three of them have played together since they were third-graders playing for the Little Eagles, when Mason was the QB, Smith was a receiver and Morris was a tight end.
It’s a good thing that all changed.
“The whole offseason we knew we had something to prove,” Morris said. “We were working hard in the weight room, speed and agility, doing stuff on our own – I think it will definitely pay off.
“Kids from other schools when we were playing 7-on-7, they were thinking we’re going to have a bad year because we lost Foster. They don’t know that we got some younger guys who can fill those spots and they don’t know about all our receivers. We just feel like we have something to prove.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677