Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the big teddy bear who is Dazzie Morris is the frontline leader for an offensive line that is headed to the Florida Class 8A state title game this Saturday night.
Morris is a soft-spoken, shy type who seems as if he wouldn’t swat a fly. Put that Apopka football jersey on top of his shoulder pads and an Apopka "Hoka Hey” T-shirt and a transformation takes place.
For Apopka football players, all is never as it seems.
Morris, however, is one of the few guys on the team who actually looks the part. He’s a 6-foot-3, 288-pound offensive lineman who switched over to center this season after starting the previous two as a guard. He’s joined up front by twins Kaleb Bevelle and Kelby Bevelle, both 6-foot-3, 235-pound identical tackles who look more like defensive ends. There’s also a sophomore who has scouts licking their chops in guard Martez Ivey (6-5, 275) and the other guard is junior Sam Janetzke (6-2, 265).
It’s an unheralded line that has had an amazing season of run blocking for guys like pint-sized running back Jevric Blocker, who is 5-foot-5, 142 pounds. Head coach Rick Darlington even calls Blocker his “garden gnome.”
Blocker has rushed for 1,618 yards on 191 carries (8.5 yards per carry) and 23 touchdowns for the 12-2 Darters, who have won 11 straight games. Three others, sophomores Daquom Isom and Ray Ray Smith and junior quarterback Zack Darlington, have surpassed or are approaching the 600-yard mark. Back-up quarterback Chandler Cox even has 505 yards rushing. At 4,141 yards, Apopka is averaging 295 yards per game on the ground.
So somebody is clearing holes up front.
“You see the rankings. We don’t have the top-ranked kids on our team. We just play together … play as a team,” Morris said.
He credits a lot of his ability to make the quick transition to center this season to current Oklahoma freshman Ty Darlington, who was a
U.S. Army All-American last season at Apopka.
“He taught me a lot and I still talk to him to this day and he watches my film and stuff,” Morris said of the OU Darlington. “He gives me all kinds of advice. He’s a real good motivator for me.”
And with the oldest of seven Darlington children having moved on, coach Darlington has also taken Morris under his wing and made sure his senior is in the best position to succeed, not just in football, but in life.
“We’ve gotten that bond. When his son left, he told me he sees me as Ty,” Morris said.
Morris is not concerned about his college scholarship offer sheet. It currently stands as a list of one, with
Bethune-Cookman the lone entry. If that’s where it remains, Morris will take it and go with it. He’s humble and driven.
“I’m just focused on getting this championship,” Morris said. “For our team ... my brothers. That’s what’s important … not personal glory.
“By the time I think about it [recruiting] that’s when offers will start coming in and that will be after the Citrus Bowl.”
He made that statement before the Dr. Phillips game last Thursday. Confident yet not cocky, he expects to win, as they all do at Apopka. The players, the coaches, the students ... the whole town, which will represent at the Citrus Bowl in numbers Saturday night, strong and loud.
Morris brings out the Apopka flag before every game. He’ll be doing his little dance as he leads the Darters onto the field one last time.
And be sure that should the Darters win the state title against Weston Cypress Bay, he’ll be dancing again. The big fella has some moves.
I think he even fancies himself a quarterback. He’d be the first with his hand up if Darlington and backup QB Cox both went down with injuries.
“I think he could. We were talking about trying to get him a carry and I told him if I ever get a long run I’m going to turn around and toss it back to him,” said Zack Darlington. “Dazzie is a great person, great friend, great brother, great athlete. He is one of the funniest people I know.”
The Darters certainly hope to have the last laugh Saturday.