High school football: Morgan Park has his helmets and playoff dreams as practice begins

The Morgan Park football team was ready to start training on Monday without a helmet. But a last-minute push from Schutt Sports and Chicago Public Schools helped get the refurbished helmets to the Mustangs just in time for the first day of football practice across the state.

“I was really happy when these helmets arrived,” said Morgan Park junior Chris Durr. “I got out of bed for this.”

The helmet delay has put Morgan Park at a disadvantage all summer according to Durr and his trainer Chris James. And rivals have taken notice.

“Other schools were definitely trying to get us,” sophomore Marcus Thaxton said.

Thaxton (6-0, 174 pounds) will start at quarterback for Morgan Park. He played three games last season, so he had a good taste of college action.

“[Thaxton] is blessed to be a very, very good player,” James said. “He’s a smart kid with all the tools. He would have played a lot more in first year if he hadn’t broken his collarbone. Were excited. Every time you have a quarterback, you have a chance.

Thank James for letting us know that his team needed help getting their helmets on time. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

“I’m glad the folks at Schutt and CPS called and got it all done,” James said. “Whatever the details, the helmets are there and we are training.”

Junior Tysean Griffin (5-11, 165 lbs.) is expected to be one of the region’s biggest stars this season. He plays running back, receiver and defensive back for Morgan Park. The speedster has bulked up, gaining around 20 pounds since last season according to James.

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Griffin has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan State, Syracuse, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and several other schools.

Morgan Park assistant coach Matthew Bryant checks the fit of a helmet given to a player.

Morgan Park assistant coach Matthew Bryant checks the fit of a helmet given to a player.

Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times

Morgan Park sophomore Jovan Clark is one of the most intriguing players around. He was high profile as a freshman but missed most of the season due to injury. The running back/linebacker already has several scholarship offers, including at Boston College, Maryland and Syracuse.

Mustangs are very young and have a tough schedule. They open the season against Richards.

“We need to help young people grow and acclimate to college,” Durr said. “We have to do what it takes to win a state championship.”

That’s right, Durr mentioned a state championship. Phillips is still the only public league school to win a state championship, but several programs are hoping to make a deep playoff in future seasons.

“I have a feeling this is going to be one of the best years CPS has ever had,” James said. “We have four or five teams that can compete at the state level. Simeon was young last year. Kenwood is talented, so is Taft and you have to respect Phillips. They have the tradition now.

“We have a group of kids who have been playing football since they were eight years old. I’m delighted to see their development.

Morgan Park Football Match Schedule

Aug. 26 vs. Richards at Gately
September 2 at Rich
September 10 vs. Phillips at Gately
September 17 against Curie at Lane
September 24 vs. Kenwood at Lane
October 1 against Hubbard at Gately
Oct. 7 vs. Brooks at Gately
October 14 against Siméon at Gately
October 21 against Taft at Gately

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