Every fall for as long as he can remember, Metea Valley’s Erin Morgan has been on a football field.
He hopes that continues next year in college, but for now his focus is on Glenbard East this Friday and getting win No. 5 to make the Mustangs playoff-eligible for the first time ever.
“I’ve always thought about playing football in college,” he said. “This is my 12th year of football so I’ve been playing since I was a first grader. My older brother is now playing at the University of Dayton so I’d love to continue playing.”
Morgan’s older brother Devon played at Waubonsie Valley, a program that has produced a ninth straight winning season. Erin Morgan’s Mustangs are in just their fifth varsity season — still aiming to qualify for the playoffs for the first time.
“The whole team is excited about the chance to make history,” he said. “Coach always says there can only be one team to be the first to win five games. We can do it and with our team’s potential, I feel the sky’s the limit.”
Morgan has been the team’s defensive stalwart.
“He’s just a force that has to be accounted for by the opponent’s offense every week,” Metea coach Ben Kleinhans said. “Last year he was able to use his quickness and athleticism and was more of a pass rush and slant guy.
“This year we haven’t had to put in a lot of blitz packages because we’re able to get pressure and still drop back. He’s really helped us out in preparing from a defensive standpoint.”
Even after a breakout season in which Morgan was named all-conference last fall, he dedicated himself to getting better in the offseason.
“I put on 15 pounds from last year, so I got a lot stronger this season in the weight room,” he said. “But I also think the difference this year is I’m using my hands a lot more and reading offensive lines. I know where the plays are going a lot better.”
Morgan’s recorded 35 tackles, and even more impressive is that 13 have been for losses. He also has six sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“I have to give credit to our defensive line coach, Adam West,” Morgan said. “We go through drills every day to get our muscle memory and know what we’re supposed to do, and then working hard in the weight room work has made me faster and stronger. I think that’s why I’m having a way better season.”
Kleinhans considers Morgan to be a quiet leader off the field, but that changes radically when those Friday Night Lights are turned on.
“He’s pretty quiet off the field, but he’s a team captain and someone who plays with a lot of emotion,” he said. “He’s our best defensive player and he doesn’t get tired. He’s the one guy on the defense that doesn’t leave the field and he’s met and then exceeded all our expectations.”
Morgan also helped the Mustangs alter their mindset into one which expects to win every time they play. Even when they’ve come up short this fall, they’ve been competitive in defeat.
“I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Morgan said. “Against Glenbrook South and Waubonsie (Valley) we were down by two touchdowns, but Coach Kleinhans just tells us to give everything you got and do your job, and we’ve done that and put ourselves in a position to win.”
And now in a position to make history.