Maybe the gumbo needs a little seasoning. But when that dash of spice isn’t available, sometimes you must make due with what you have.
Last season, Marc Morris’ rack of spices was chock full, his Carolina Forest football team blessed with veterans at every turn. Such allowed him to spend less time teaching and more of it coaching, many of the players having been in his system for each of the previous four years.
Things could not be more different going into the 2017 season, however, the Panthers breaking in an abundance of new blood following a mass exodus due to graduation.
Morris has made the most of very little before. With a young group consisting largely of freshmen and sophomores, he will be tasked with doing it again.
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“To be honest, some of the young players that are out with us can use another year (at the B-team or junior varsity level),” Morris said. “But anytime you play young players, you know they have the want to be great. So now our job is to do what we can to bring that out of them.”
Injuries derailed a 2016 season brimming with promise, as the Panthers saw top contributors fall in droves. As a result, the team finished with a 6-5 record, losing each of its last four games.
Youth cannot be used as a crutch or excuse. We’ll prepare with the guys we have out there, tee it up and see how we stack up. I’m looking forward to these guys getting better, and hopefully they are rewarded with wins.
Carolina Forest football coach Marc Morris
A new season offers the promise of a different outcome, something Morris is shooting for with this young group.
“The best part about this is that they are getting the opportunity to learn on the job,” he said. “Hopefully, once the games really start to count when region play arrives, they’ll be ready.”
One person the Carolina Forest head man can depend on to be prepared at all times is quarterback Matt Beale. Now a senior, the upcoming football campaign will be his third under center for the program.
Last season, the dual threat quarterback threw for better than 1,000 yards and ran for nearly 500 more. With such young pieces in the lineup, Morris is hoping his presence can serve as a calming influence.
“In the time he’s been a starter for us, he’s done a good job,” the Carolina Forest head man said. “With all these fresh faces in the lineup, having him at the quarterback position is a real plus. He knows what everyone does, gets everyone lined up and can really make plays for us.”
Left tackle Tommy Schubert is one of the other veterans in a pool of newbies for Carolina Forest. Being a three-year starter, he will be asked to anchor an offensive line under Morris tailor-made to pound the football.
“We lost a bunch of good players up front, that’s pretty obvious,” Morris said. “For us, the run is a big part of what we do. We worked really hard this offseason to build the strength of our guys in the trenches … hopefully some of those guys will step up for us.”
Youth also will be a theme on the defensive side of the ball for Carolina Forest, one that eventually will have the task of slowing down the power run game of Sumter while trying to stymie more balanced attacks like Conway, South Florence, Socastee and others.
“Until someone beats Sumter, this league goes through them,” Morris said. “But top to bottom, it should be a challenge playing in (Region 6-5A) this season. I mean, everyone has talent.
“So youth cannot be used as a crutch or excuse. We’ll prepare with the guys we have out there, tee it up and see how we stack up. I’m looking forward to these guys getting better, and hopefully they are rewarded with wins.”
Carolina Forest Panthers
Coach: Marc Morris (110-45 career, 14-20 in three years at Carolina Forest)
2016 record: 6-5, 2-3 Region VI-5A (lost to Summerville in first round of Class 5A playoffs)
Key players: Matt Beale (Sr., QB), Tommy Schubert (Sr., OL)
The word: Injuries derailed what could have been a season for the books at Carolina Forest. Still, coach Marc Morris and his group of Panthers will continue to plug right along, playing their own unique brand of smashmouth football. Dual-threat quarterback Matt Beale is back to continue a stellar career at Carolina Forest, one that will finish with him finish as a three-year starter. He’ll hand off to a stable of backs looking for room to run behind an offensive line anchored by senior Tommy Schubert.