High school football: Morgan Park has its helmets and state playoff dreams as practice begins

Morgan Park’s football team was prepared to start practice on Monday without their helmets. But a last-minute push from Schutt Sports and Chicago Public Schools helped get the Mustangs their helmets.

“I was really happy when those helmets arrived,” Morgan Park junior Chris Durr said. “I got out of bed for that.”

The helmet delay put Morgan Park at a disadvantage all summer according to Durr and coach Chris James. 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 for Morgan Park. He played in three games last season, so 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 Tysean Griffin (5-11, 165 pounds) should be one of the area’s biggest stars this season. He plays running back, receiver, and defensive back for Morgan Park. The speedster has bulked up, gaining about 20 pounds since last season according to James.

Griffin has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan State, Syracuse, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and several other schools.

Morgan Park assistant coach Matthew Bryant checks the fit of a helmet being issued to a player.

Morgan Park assistant coach Matthew Bryant checks the fit of a helmet being issued to a player.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Morgan Park sophomore Jovan Clark is one of the area’s most intriguing players. 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 Boston College, Maryland, and Syracuse.

The Mustangs are very young and have a challenging schedule. They 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 over 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 eight years old. I’m excited to see their development.”

Morgan Park football schedule

Aug. 26 vs. Richards at Gately
Sept. 2 that Rich
Sept. 10 vs. Phillips at Gately
Sept. 17 vs. Curie at Lane
Sept. 24 vs. Kenwood at Lane
October 1 vs. Hubbard at Gately
October 7 vs. Brooks at Gately
October 14 vs. Simeon at Gately
October 21 vs. Taft at Gately

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