Archbishop Hoban senior Jonah Morris continues to be a playmaker.
Whether the Knights are in the navy blue uniforms or the white uniforms, No. 1 on the roster has consistently given opponents fits as a wide receiver, safety and linebacker.
Morris’ talent earned him the Northeast Ohio Inland District Defensive Player of the Year honor in Division III earlier this month, and today he has been selected as the 2015 Akron Beacon Journal Football Player of the Year by the high school sports staff.
“Jonah has finally realized his own potential this year as a football player,” Hoban coach Tim Tyrrell said. “You saw it at certain times last year where he knew he was good, but I don’t think he completely understood he could take over a game on either side of the football. That has been the progression this year. He has had a lot of big games.”
Morris, who is 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds, is continuing to grow and improve his route running on offense and identifying favorable matchups.
Division III Hoban is one of six area teams set to play in a state semifinal this weekend. Stow in Division I, Hudson and Perry in Division II, Canton Central Catholic in Division V and Mogadore in Division VII are the others.
Hoban (12-1) will meet Zanesville (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon after securing playoff wins over New Philadelphia, Louisville and rival St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Hoban senior starters Tyler Gilchrist and Anthony Christian, two of Morris’ best friends, said they have seen Morris become faster and stronger the past four years.
“His freshman year, he was pretty skinny, but he has put on a couple of pounds and he is a better leader,” Christian said. “That’s why he was picked as one of our captains.”
Said Gilchrist: “Jonah’s biggest jump is from last year to this year. Last year, you would see him make crazy plays on the defensive side and on the offense side as well, but this year he has really stepped up on offense. He has become more of a vocal leader and you see him out here making calls. I think the game has really slowed down a lot for him.”
Morris, 17, started playing football when his parents, Aleste Gaiter and John Morris Jr., signed him up in youth leagues. His mother graduated from Firestone, his father Buchtel.
“They let me play at 7 years old against 8- and 9-year-olds,” Morris said. “It was really great for me to get to play early and get a jump. Other teams would not let me play because I was too young, but the Northwest Hawks [in Akron] let me play with them.”
Morris played five years with the Hawks, and then one year each with the West Traveling Team and the West Side Saints at St. Sebastian before enrolling at Hoban at age 14.
Morris also enjoyed competing in basketball, baseball and wrestling as a kid, but gravitated toward football in high school. He played on the freshman and junior varsity teams as a freshman, and has been a varsity player the past three years.
“I think I can be really successful at the next levels,” Morris said. “I like the physicality of football. I like to hit people, make plays and entertain people.”
Morris was committed to Michigan State, but is now considering other options with scholarship offers from MSU, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Kentucky Pittsburgh, Akron, Kent State, Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio).
“I have no problem with Michigan State,” Morris said. “I want to see what is out there for me. That’s the whole reason. I only took four unofficial visits [to Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Miami and Michigan State] prior to committing, and I felt like I rushed it.”
Morris plans to visit Notre Dame in December, but his main focus is on his Hoban team.
“Since Day One, we all had this bond and chemistry together,” Morris said.
“I still don’t think we have played our best game of the season. Our best games so far were the games with St. Vincent-St. Mary. There was a lot of hype surrounding those rivalry games.
“For us to go out there and beat a good team like them two times is incredible. We made history because that was the first time we played them in the playoffs, and to beat them in the regular season, too, that was huge for us.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.