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Football: South's Cal Morris has quickly made an impact
South Forsyth senior quarterback Cal Morris has taken the helm of the No. 4-ranked War Eagles' offense in his first year as the starter. - photo by Micah Green

Cal Morris escaped the collapsing pocket, evaded South Gwinnett's pursuing tacklers, and when he looked up from the turf, there was nothing but free space between him and the end zone. Morris kept running, and not even the Comets' defensive backs could catch him. 

"It really was almost like it wasn't happening," South Forsyth head coach Jeff Arnette said. "It was just like a dream. I've been doing it 27 years, it's one of the craziest plays I've ever been a part of."

Morris was doing it, though, providing the high point so far to a season where he's emerged from obscurity as a senior and become one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the county. He's helped put South among the top teams in Class 7A and shocked many observers along the way -- but not South. 

"We were expecting great things out of him, and you guys are just now seeing what we knew was coming," Arnette said. 

The job of signal-caller wasn't guaranteed to be Morris' heading into the season. It might have been if he'd been able to fulfill his role as backup when Davis Shanley went down with an injury for South last year, but Morris was out with a broken collarbone, and his brother, Drew, took over under center and filled in capably. 

Heading into 2017, then, the battle for first-string quarterback was one between brothers -- or at least that's what the War Eagles' coaches painted it as. 

"I always believed that I was the guy for this year," Cal Morris said. "I just always knew."

South Forsyth quarterback Cal Morris scores a touchdown in a game against Centennial on Sept. 1. - photo by Micah Green
Morris, motivated by the reality that this season would be his last chance to play quarterback in high school, adopted an intense offseason workout. He'd throw before school, even in freezing temperatures, getting various receivers -- including his brother -- and his father, War Eagles offensive coordinator Troy Morris, to come and help out. Sometimes, Morris would just throw into a net. 

He needed the extra work, because the broken collarbone made it so that Morris struggled to throw a spiral when he got healthy again. 

"I'd played quarterback my whole life, so I had to retrain myself," Morris said. "And that took a lot of hard work."

The product of that offseason work and the years learning behind Shanley, who now plays for Western Kentucky, is a pure, dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Morris isn't the county's most productive or prolific signal-caller -- that would be North Forsyth's Ben Bales, who has already totaled 1,097 passing yards in the Raiders' hyperactive spread offense -- but he's up there with Bales in efficiency, averaging 13.7 yards per completion and 9.9 yards per rush, with the latter total distinguishing Morris from the pro-style Bales. 

Morris has also seen significantly less time than Bales, as he sat out in the second half against Centennial after leading the War Eagles to a 45-0 halftime lead and missed all of South's win against Class 1A Pinecrest Academy.

So while Morris' contributions this year have been solid -- 123 total yards and a rushing touchdown in a defensive grind against Roswell to open the season, a huge half against Centennial, and two rushing touchdowns against South Gwinnett, including the aforementioned 75-yard game-winner with less than two minutes to play -- they're all college recruiters have to see of him.

"They're just now getting wind of him," Arnette said of Morris. "They're just now seeing him. So they're kind of trying to catch up to what he's doing also, but I think he's definitely a college player and he's going to be a very successful one."

Morris, who has seen interest from Furman and a few other FCS schools, is showing no signs, inward or outward, of stress about that process. He wants to focus on South's season right now and wait until that's over to figure out where he'll play next. Morris isn't on Twitter, where college coaches and prospective recruits often connect, and he doesn't care if that could be another obstacle in the recruiting process. 

"I'm anti-social media," Morris said. "I know that might hinder the recruiting process, but I'm against it in all ways. I don't know, I think it's more beneficial to not have it. People are always so hooked on it for whatever reasons. I just see more negative with it."

Morris could end up surprising many more people this season, depending on the outcome of the War Eagles' last non-region game, against No. 10 Lassiter, and how they do in what looks to be a tightly-packed Region 5-7A. But you won't be able to tell by looking at Morris, who's as stoic as a high schooler can be, even in the tightest game situations. 

"The moment never gets him," Arnette said.