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BHS's Morris getting his kicks

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By Hammond Knight

BUFORD – About three seconds. That’s how long it took the record-breaking 46-yard kick to soar over the outstretched hands of the Indian Land defenders, over the 30-yard line, by the 20, passed the 10, over the end zone and through the uprights at Buford’s Jackets Stadium. So what was going through Buford High senior place-kicker JoJo Morris’ mind in the seconds after the ball left his powerful foot before clearing the crossbar? “I was just hoping and praying it went in.” Morris said of his memorable kick in the BHS season’s opener Aug. 24. Not only did the kick go in, it helped propel the Yellow Jacket to a 23-0 win over rival Indian Land. It also placed Morris’ name in the Buford High record book for longest field goal. “Before the season started, I asked coach Wells if I would get any kind of chance to kick from a long distance,” Morris said. “He answered me right there.” Wells has confidence in Morris and likes the extra dimension of having a reliable kicker brings to an offense. “It’s good to know you can get to the other team’s 30 and still have a chance to score.” Wells said. Morris was front and center again last week, when the Jackets were in the middle of a tough battle with county Conference VIII-AA foe Andrew Jackson. With the score tied up 28-28 in the fourth quarter, Morris lined up to kick a game-winner from 42 yards, but missed. “It was terrible. I felt like I let my team down,” Morris said. Redemption came in OT, when Morris nailed a 19-yard field goal to win the game, 31-28. “Coach Wells came and talked to me before I kicked it, and told me he knew I could make it.” Morris said. “It reassured me to know that someone else beside me thought I could do it.” But Morris isn’t just a safety net for the Jacket offense. He has taken pressure off the Buford defense by handing the kickoff and punting duties. “Just a couple of seasons ago, we were pooch-kicking the ball, and we were lucky if the other team started on the 30-yard line,” Wells said. “JoJo has had at least 5 or 6 touchbacks this season. He also averages 39 yards a punt. And he gets the ball off quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen. I believe we could just snap the ball to him and not block anybody and he would still get the punt off.” Morris attributes his success to hard work and dedication. “One thing we haven’t had here in the past is a dedicated kicker, and that’s what I try to be.” Morris said. “I come to practice and kick almost every day. And not a day goes by I don’t take a run.” Offseason training is no problem for Morris. He is a three-sport athlete. In addition to football, he plays soccer and basketball for the Yellow Jackets. “I have to stay in shape,” said Morris. Morris hopes after he graduates at the eastern Class AA Lancaster County high school, he can take his athletic skills to the college level, either playing soccer or football. Maybe both. But he knows he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in today if it weren’t for the people who helped him along the way. He attributes youth coach Mike Mahaffey for teaching him the fundamentals of soccer. He added Wells taught him how to use technique to get rid of the ball quickly. He credits Buford High soccer coach Allen Rogers in developing his all-round soccer skills. He gives the most credit to his mother Libby Morris. “She always kept me disciplined and on the right road,” Morris said. “That has helped me succeed in life.”