Morgan Park has its helmets — and state playoff dreams — as football practice begins
The helmet delay put the Mustangs at a disadvantage all summer. And rivals took notice.
Morgan Park’s football team was prepared to start practice Monday without helmets. But a last-minute push from Schutt Sports and Chicago Public Schools helped get the reconditioned helmets to the Mustangs just in time for the first day of football practice across the state.
‘‘I was really happy when those helmets arrived,’’ Morgan Park junior Chris Durr said. ‘‘I got out of bed for that.’’
The Mustangs’ 75 helmets were sent to Schutt Sports, the helmet manufacturer, in December. Schutt reconditions the helmets every year. Last week, coach Chris James was told there was no set date for the helmets to arrive back at Morgan Park. Most schools around the area had received their reconditioned helmets months ago.
The delay put the Mustangs at a disadvantage all summer, James and Durr said. And rivals took notice.
‘‘Other schools were definitely trying to get us,’’ sophomore Marcus Thaxton said.
Thaxton (6-0, 174 pounds) will start at quarterback. He played in three games last season, so he had a good taste of varsity action.
‘‘[Thaxton] has the chance to be a really, really good player,’’ James said. ‘‘He’s a smart kid with all the tools. He would have played a lot more as a freshman if he didn’t break his collarbone. We’re excited. Anytime you have a quarterback, you have a chance.’’
Credit James for getting the word out that his team needed some help getting its helmets in time. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
‘‘I’m happy the people at Schutt and CPS got on the phone and got it done,’’ James said. ‘‘Whatever the details, the helmets are here and we’re practicing.’’
Junior speedster Tysean Griffin (5-11, 165 pounds) should be one of the biggest stars in the area this season. He plays running back, receiver and defensive back and has bulked up, gaining about 20 pounds since last season, James said.
Griffin has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan State, Syracuse, Tennessee, Wisconsin and several other schools.
Sophomore Jovan Clark is one of the most intriguing players in the area. He was heavily hyped as a freshman but missed almost the entire season with an injury.
The running back/linebacker already has several scholarship offers, including from Boston College, Maryland, and Syracuse.
Morgan Park is very young and has a challenging schedule. The Mustangs open the season against Richards.
‘‘We have to help the young people grow up and get acclimated to varsity,’’ Durr said. ‘‘We need 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 hope to make deep playoff runs in the next few seasons.
‘‘I feel like this will 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, and so is Taft. And you have to respect Phillips. They have tradition now.
‘‘We have a bunch of kids that have been playing football since they were 8 years old. I’m excited to see their development.’’
Morgan Park football schedule
Aug. 26 vs. Richards at Gately
Sept. 2 at Rich
Sept. 10 vs. Phillips at Gately
Sept. 17 vs. Curie at Lane
Sept. 24 vs. Kenwood at Lane
Oct. 1 vs. Hubbard at Gately
Oct. 7 vs. Brooks at Gately
Oct. 14 vs. Simeon at Gately
Oct. 21 vs. Taft at Gately