Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Isaiah Morris interview
His team surrendered a three-touchdown lead in the final quarter of the state high school football championship game. They lost in overtime, fumbling on their first play.
As soon as the ball hit the turf that cold late November evening, many players on the Desert Pines High football team cried uncontrollably amid the shock of the devastating loss. They sought comfort from coaches and family, equally stunned after squandering a seemingly insurmountable lead.
Isaiah Morris, the Jaguars' playmaking running back, was no different. He stood off by himself, yielding to the emotion as he conversed poignantly with his mother’s spirit.
Joshua never missed one of her son’s games and he sensed her spirit that night, which before Moapa Valley's comeback was one of Morris’ best all-around performances. He put on a show to cement his status as one of Southern Nevada’s top players, rushing for three touchdowns and 177 yards on 14 carries, and catching a pass for a touchdown.
“She’s my best friend,” Morris said. “I thanked her for being there at my game. It was the best I’ve ever played, all because of her.”
The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Morris, who is arguably the best pound-for-pound player in Nevada, highlights the Sun’s preseason all-city team. He’s just a junior, but after rushing for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2014, he was an easy selection for the 29-player team.
When he gets the ball in open space, as witnessed by lengthy touchdown runs of 54, 65 and 21 yards in the championship game, he’s too elusive and fast to tackle. With each touchdown, he pointed toward the sky.
“I play every game like it’s my last game because you never know when it’s going to be your last,” Morris said.
That’s a reality Morris learned to deal with early in life. He never knew his father, Booker T. Morris, who died from injuries suffered when he was hit by a car while riding a bike. Booker T. was a teenager and Isaiah had yet to have his first birthday.
Many of his teammates know of his story, but he doesn’t seek their pity. Some were classmates at Roy Martin Middle School on that awful day in January 2012 when he was pulled out of class to receive the news of his mother.
She was determined that her son would compete, whether it was walking him to Pop Warner practices at Freedom Park when he just 7 and playing for the first time, or volunteering to take the city bus early in the morning to a retrieve the basketball jersey he needed later in the day for a game. That’s when she was killed — the driver wasn’t charged after it was ruled an accident.
He still played later that day, scoring 22 points to go with 14 assists and 11 rebounds despite trying to digest life without his mother.
“He never plays the role of a kid who is the victim of situation,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “He is such a strong kid. He is so mature for his age because he had to deal with tragedy.”
Marckell Grayson, the Desert Pines quarterback who is also part of the preseason team, has been teammates with Morris since grade school. Their moms attended high school together. They’ve laughed, cried, competed and won a lot of football games together.
The championship game, even in defeat, is something they’ll never forget. Morris was just so dominating.
“The state game, he turned into a whole other monster,” Grayson said. “He’s never been emotional in front of people, but you can tell it drives him to be better. He was blowing kisses to his parents and that touched everyone.”
Morris, because of his diminutive size, is still waiting for a scholarship offer. It doesn’t matter what level of college he plays in, he simply wants to play at the next level. That, after all, is what his mom spent her life doing — making sure her son played sports.
“When I finally get that (scholarship) offer, that’s when I wish my mom could be there so I could physically thank her,” Morris said.
Here’s the rest of the Sun’s all-city team :
5-11, 170 pounds
Martell was the national sophomore of the year last season, completing 124 of 200 passes for 2,537 yards and 40 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He is verbally committed to Texas A&M.
6-2, 185 pounds
Grayson had a breakout year in his initial varsity season, passing for 2,180 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2014, and adding three rushing touchdowns to lead Desert Pines to the state championship game. He’s still developing as a passer, but has all the tools — including height at 6-feet-2 — to continue dominating on Friday nights.
6-0, 230 pounds
Stevenson rushed for 1,457 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2014, including an electrifying 80-yard touchdown run against power Bishop Gorman, in being named the Sun’s player of the year. He’s a hard-nosed runner with above-average speed — a lethal combination for defenses to contain.
5-8, 160 pounds
Morris rushed for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2014 as a sophomore. He’s a state champion in track, using his speed to outclass defenders.
5-10, 166 pounds
Hicks rushed for 849 yards and 10 touchdowns last year and averaged about six yards per carry. That’s not bad considering it was his freshman season, making him one of the rare players to have success in the large-school classification as a ninth grader. He’ll shatter records before it’s all said and done.
5-8, 165 pounds
Lindsey caught 34 passes for 884 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, making significant play after significant play for Gorman in its national championship run. He’s considered a four-star recruiting prospect and has double-digit scholarship offers, including one from Ohio State. Ohio State rarely recruits in Las Vegas — yes, Lindsey is that special.
6-0, 180 pounds
Hubert, a three-star recruit with scholarship offers from schools such as UNR and Army, caught 49 passes for 964 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense last season, and recorded 71 tackles and six interceptions on defense. He also had about 600 receiving yards. He’s the consensus best player in the Division I-A.
5-9, 175 pounds
Dedeaux is one of the best two-way players in Southern Nevada, catching 42 passes for 872 yards last season and rushing for another two touchdowns. Defensively, he’s one of the best defensive backs in the state.
6-5, 300 pounds
King, a three-star recruit with scholarship offers from the likes of Arizona State and Washington State, is credited with being quick on his feet and having the ability to block downfield. He gets plenty of chances to block at Arbor View, which has one of the state’s best rushing attacks.
6-4, 305 pounds
Poutasi is a big and strong blocker who is following in the steps of his brother Jeremiah Poutasi, a third-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 NFL Draft. Samuel Poutasi is a three-star college recruit with offers from schools such as Oregon State, Washington State and Hawaii. He’ll miss the first month of the season with a knee injury.
Julio Garcia II interview
6-4, 305 pounds
Garcia, a UNLV commit, is a three-year starter at national champion Bishop Gorman. During the Rivals Camp Series in the spring, he was named the camp’s MVP for linemen. It was an invitation-only event for 250 of the region’s top players.
6-4, 280 pounds
Caldwell, a UNLV commit, started every game for Bishop Gorman last season in its championship run. He and Gorman teammate Julio Garcia II will be the first Gorman players to sign with former Gaels coach Tony Sanchez with the Rebels.
6-4, 330 pounds
Lualemaga, a strong and powerful lineman, is a matchup nightmare for the opposition because of his size. He excels in run blocks and continues to make improvements with his feet and quickness.
6-1, 165 pounds
Callan made 9 of 10 field goal attempts last season with a long of 38 yards.
6-1, 180 pounds
Cofer, the son of former NFL kicker, Mike Cofer, has made 10 of 19 field goal attempts in two varsity seasons. He made four field goals in one game last season, including a career best 54-yard attempt and a 45-yarder at the end of regulation to force overtime.
5-11, 160 pounds
Acosta, who is one of the fastest players in Nevada, had three touchdowns in the return game in 2013. He also rushed for 400 yards and six touchdowns, and caught 21 passes for 315 yards and four scores.
6-3, 250 pounds
Smith is rated by Rivals.com as the state’s No. 1 recruit for the class of 2016. He unofficially had 54 tackles and 16 sacks in 2014.
6-2, 260 pounds
Garrett, who has scholarship offers from Texas A&M, USC, Washington and others, was unstoppable most games last season in recording 79 tackles — 20 for a loss — and 11.5 sacks.
Rudy Bukassa interview
6-0, 190 pounds
Bukassa, who doubles at tight end, had 33 tackles as a junior at weakside defensive end. He’s a big reason why the five-time defending Sunrise champion Patriots are clear-cut favorites to repeat.
6-3, 240 pounds
Geraghty missed all of last season with a leg injury, but is still one of national power Gorman’s most respected defenders. He has a scholarship offer from Army, and will surely land more offers after proving himself in the initial weeks of the season. He’s a high IQ player who coaches and teammates esteem.
6-4, 310 pounds
Rogers, a four-star recruit who is considered one of the region’s top prospects, had 37 tackles — 10 for a loss — last season. He makes it difficult for opposing teams to establish the running game.
6-4, 225 pounds
Shaw, a transfer from Georgia, is a long-armed and athletic defensive end who had 61 tackles, 11 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and three pass deflections in 2014. He’s become of the area’s most sought after recruits, scoring scholarship offers from a who’s who of colleges — Arizona State, Boise State and North Carolina, for instance.
6-0, 225 pounds
Hansell, the Desert Pines team captain and all-league performer last season, is a hard-hitting linebacker who is strong in defending against the run.
5-11, 235 pounds
Thomas had 69 tackles and five sacks in 2014, and leads a Palo Verde defense which is typically one of the best in the Sunset Region.
6-0, 205 pounds
Okeke is arguably the best linebacker in Nevada, posting 56 tackles — including 16.5 for a loss — and 7.5 sacks in 2014 to help Gorman win a sixth straight state championship.
6-3, 220 pounds
Hershberger had 53 tackles and nine sacks in 2014 as a sophomore and is expected to be one of the state’s top tacklers this season.
5-10, 180 pounds
Minor is an athletic safety with top-notch speed. He is the leader of a Canyon Springs defense that typically is one of the Sunrise Region’s best.
5-10, 180 pounds
Noce always seems to be around the ball, finishing 2014 with four interceptions and 60 tackles.
5-11, 160 pounds
Hunt is one of the most dynamic players in the Division I-A who won’t come off the field for the Mountain Lions. He’s also dangerous in the return game.