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The Morris football program's legacy of success is spelled out for its current players with a sign on its press box. | Tim Tierney - For Sun-Times Media
A marquee on a roadside business coming into town reads: “Go Morris Win Big.”
The Redskins have a long history of doing exactly that.
Since Morris first made the postseason in 1979, the school has been in the playoffs 30 of the past 34 seasons. Morris played in a state championship three times in four years from 2004 through 2007, winning the Class 6A title in 2005.
“The ’05 team, that’s one of the best high school teams I’ve seen in my life,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said.
Thorson was the sophomore coach back then. Now it’s his team that will be in the Class 5A championship game Saturday against Montini.
“Our motto since Day 1 of summer is we’ve got to get better each day,” Thorson said. “That’s the truth. We still have to get better if we want to win. Montini is a good team. They’ve won three in a row.”
Morris has three state titles of its own — including 3A in 1980 and 4A in ’84 — and an impressive 65-26 record in the playoffs.
Athletic director George Dergo, the school’s football coach for five years from the 2005 championship season through 2009, likes what he sees in the 2012 Redskins.
“These kids have played together for a long time,” Dergo said. “They’ve matured, they’ve grown up. They’ve had a tough group since they came into high school.”
The seniors have lost only three games in four years at Morris, adding to the football tradition of the Grundy County school.
“They challenge themselves,” Dergo said. “2005 was a great team. 2004 was another really good team. 2007 went to state. These kids are all old enough to know and pay attention to that.
“They know the way we do things. ‘Throw the ball a little, line up in the T (formation), take time off the clock. Here’s how you win championships.’ They styled themselves after the teams from the past. They watched it growing up.”
Senior Jeff Perry secured Saturday’s semifinal victory with a 62-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“Since I was little, since watching the ’05 team and ’07 team go to state, that’s been my dream,” Perry said. “We put so much hard work in.
“Every day we try our hardest to get here. We knew that’s what we had to do to get here. Now we’ve just got to continue working hard and get that state title.”
Senior Danny Friend, the two-way end who will attend Indiana, described the bond among the players.
“We’ve been together some of us since we were fifth- and sixth-graders,” Friend said. “We’re a family. We hang out together, we go to lunch together, we go to each other’s houses. I’d do anything for these guys. They’re my brothers.”
Thorson said he could name “every kid on the team that stepped up at different times” during the season. Among that group is senior quarterback Zach Cinnamon, a transfer from Streator.
“That kid, he is so tough,” Thorson said. “He’s just had a great year, some huge runs for us and some great throws.”
One of those throws was the 24-yard touchdown to Friend in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the winning points in the semifinal victory. The 6-foot-5 Friend could make a big difference against Montini.
“We’re not done yet,” he said. “We’ve got one week left and hopefully we can finish this.”