INDIANAPOLIS – After all those shots to the body and slams to the turf producing aches and pains that’ll stick around a few days, Concordia Lutheran quarterback Peter Morrison barely flinched.
His tears flowed afterward, but they weren’t tears of pain.
Morrison unsuccessfully fought back tears during postgame interviews, thinking of his older brother David, of other past teammates whose seasons ended in losses, and of his current teammates. The scoreboard told the basic story: Concordia 56, Lawrenceburg 14 in the Class 3A high school football state championship Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The record book will tell more as Morrison’s name is all over it.
His tears reflected the journey. What a ride it was.
Records will one day be broken. Morrison will forever remember how he felt Saturday.
“It’s all these great guys,” Morrison said. “This team is so great. I loved every single one of them. I had so much fun this year. Football was played at its finest with us, just ’cause we all loved it. It was amazing.”
For a while Saturday, I wasn’t sure Morrison was going to be around by the time the game ended. He was getting trucked by the Lawrenceburg defense. Flattened. Squashed. Stomped on all over his slight 5-foot-10, 165-pound body.
But here’s the thing: Those hits often came after Morrison let the passes fly. They often came after those passes went for touchdown after touchdown after touchdown.
On his very first touchdown pass, a 62-yarder to Kamari Anderson-Drew, Morrison unleashed the deep ball and was hammered by the Lawrenceburg defender.
“I threw it and I was like, ‘I sure hope he catches it,’ ” Morrison said. “And then I hear some cheering and I look up. ‘Oh, it’s a touchdown.’ ”
Morrison was on the ground. I wondered if he’d get up. He finally rose, ran down the field, and kicked the extra point. I’d call him tough, but that doesn’t seem quite strong enough.
Morrison completed 17 of 25 passes for 376 yards and six touchdowns. The six touchdowns are the most in a title game for any class, topping the record of five set by former NFL quarterback Rex Grossman for Bloomington South against Homestead in 1998. Morrison's passing yards set a Class 3A state game record. His 70-yard pass to Drew Bordner set a 3A state game record.
“I think that was the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Bordner said.
It’s hard to believe, but Morrison was a receiver and a backup quarterback last season, and missed significant time with an injury. He was always a quarterback at heart.
Concordia coach Tim Mannigel, in his seventh season as Cadets coach, wasn’t surprised by Morrison’s performance. He’s been watching him put up numbers all season long. Morrison, who has one college offer from Concordia in Ann Arbor, Mich., finished the season with ridiculous passing stats: 244 of 366 passes (67 percent) for 3,980 yards and 52 touchdowns and four interceptions.
“All the impressive stats he has,” Mannigel said, “his intangibles are 100 percent better than that.”
After covering Concordia a few times this season, and talking with Morrison, those intangibles were easy to see. He found ways to keep the offense moving. He had a knack for spotting the right receiver at the right time. He knew when to exhort the team with a rah-rah speech.
“Before last year was out, Peter told us, ‘Next year is our year,’ ” senior lineman Vershawn Starks said.
Morrison's humble nature is at the forefront, too.
He’s not a pound-the-chest type of guy. He favors respect of the game and the opponent, which seems to be an overriding Concordia trait. All the guys who scored reflected that team-first approach: Peterson Kerlegrand (199 yards rushing, two rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown), Anderson-Drew (117 yards, two receiving touchdowns), Mark Mallers (117 yards, two receiving touchdowns) and Bordner (one receiving touchdown).
Morrison tried to downplay his personal records.
“All I wanted to do was win the game,” Morrison said. “If Peterson rushed for 400 yards and we won, I was going to let Peterson rush for 400 yards. All I wanted to do is win this game.”
I asked Morrison about the Concordia defense, which shut Lawrenceburg down until the Cadets had stretched the lead to 49-0 early in the fourth quarter.
“Oh my gosh, they’re the reason we won this game,” Morrison said. “Despite all the touchdowns we put up, our defense stopping them, they won us the game.”
By this time, Morrison’s postgame tears had dried, he had held the trophy high with fellow senior captains. They took Concordia football to a place it has never been before. State champs.
“I sure hope the next guy come in and wants to work his butt off and take this team to the state championship,” Morrison said. “Because they deserve another one.
Concordia might find its way to state again. The program is in good shape under Mannigel. I have my doubts we’ll see a quarterback like Morrison again for a long, long time.