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Speed, Patience a Winning Combination for Standout Orange Running Back

Speed, Patience a Winning Combination for Standout Orange Running Back

Orange High School running back Ardwon Morris (5) runs with the ball in a recent game. (Courtesy of Aaron Jacoby)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

10/23/2023

Updated: 10/23/2023

A speedy senior running back at Orange High School in Orange, California, Ardwon Morris took his time responding to a media inquiry.
“Where does this one rank?” he repeated to The Epoch Times, pondering his 287-yard, four-touchdown rushing performance in less than half of the game Oct. 20 in a 51–6 Panthers victory at Costa Mesa. “That’s a great question. I would probably rank this a four, maybe like top five.”
It is illustrative of the type of season Morris is having that touchdown jaunts of 2, 75, 16, and 63 yards, not to mention two-point conversion runs after each, wouldn’t place the latest achievement higher on his personal highlight list.
Morris, after all, is averaging 223.3 yards rushing per game and 9.2 yards per carry, and was coming off a 409-yard, seven-touchdown effort in a 59–20 win over Estancia the previous week. Those numbers required 33 carries. He had just 17 against Costa Mesa, when he piled up 256 yards and all four touchdowns in the game’s opening 14 minutes.
The numbers would have been even more inflated if not for an unusual penalty call that wiped out an apparent 69-yard Morris touchdown dash four minutes before halftime. After bursting through the middle, Morris cut to his right, leaped over a diving defender, and was gone, only to be flagged for hurdling.
“I was having fun,” Morris said. “He was diving pretty low, and the instinct was just to jump over him. They called it back because I assume you can’t hurdle, but he was diving pretty low.”
Orange High School running back Ardwon Morris (5) runs with the ball in a recent game. (Courtesy of Aaron Jacoby)

Orange High School running back Ardwon Morris (5) runs with the ball in a recent game. (Courtesy of Aaron Jacoby)

Even with both feet on the ground, Morris is flying high. In addition to having scored 24 touchdowns this season, he leads all Orange County rushers with 1,786 yards and has a realistic chance to reach the 2,000 milestone in Orange’s regular-season finale Oct. 27 against visiting Santa Ana.
“There’s a reason why he’s No. 1 in the county in rushing,” Panthers coach Robert Pedroza told The Epoch Times.
Actually, there are numerous reasons. In addition to the speed that enables Morris to gain separation in the open field, he is powerfully built at 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds.
“When you see him hit that hole, as a young athlete, you better come with something because he’s going to hit you, and it’s going to hurt,” Mr. Pedroza said. “When he gets out there, he runs mad. He just runs mad. You can see it on the field. He’s a very special talent, a very special running back.”
Whether it is in the weight room, during speed-training or anywhere else, Morris is “ultra-competitive in everything he does,” according to Mr. Pedroza. What is perhaps most striking when watching Morris, however, is the same type of learned behavior he called upon when satisfying a reporter’s curiosity.
Once in possession of the football, Morris has the rare ability to wait for plays to develop, bide his time until running lanes open, and then shift into high gear seemingly in the bat of an eye.
Orange High School running back Ardwon Morris (5) runs with the ball in a recent game. (Courtesy of Aaron Jacoby)

Orange High School running back Ardwon Morris (5) runs with the ball in a recent game. (Courtesy of Aaron Jacoby)

“That wasn’t always a skill of mine,” said Morris, who credited his coaches for helping refine it. “At the next level, everything’s not going to be as smooth. It’s not going to be open every time, so me being patient, it gives time for the line to get the blocks right, time for the defense to try to figure out what I’m going to do, so I can make the next move. Being patient is a very big step to the next level.”
For Morris, that next level figures to be at Sacramento State. The Hornets, members of the Big Sky Conference in the NCAA’s Division I Championship Subdivision, were the first to make a scholarship offer and have “shown a lot of love” to Morris, who responded with a verbal commitment last summer.
“That’s the nice part, him going to college and setting up his life,” Mr. Pedroza said. “He just does everything he’s supposed to do. Great young man.”
Before venturing north, however, there is some unfinished business for Morris and his Orange teammates. A season ago, when the Panthers finished 11–3, they went 6–0 to claim the Orange Coast League championship and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 6 championship game before falling to San Jacinto.
This season, a youthful Orange squad that features only three seniors on its roster is 5–4 overall and 4–1 in Orange Coast play. The Panthers need a victory over unbeaten Santa Ana to claim a share of the league title.
With talented junior dual-threat quarterback Hype Grand and key offensive linemen Troy Jennings and Lawrence Schuster due to return this week from injuries, Orange figures to have more weapons at its disposal. Sophomore Wesley Lundell, the team’s top receiver who threw two touchdown passes while filling in at quarterback last week, junior tight end Xavier Valentine and senior guard Joseph Carillo are other key offensive performers.
Orange High School sophomore Wesley Lundell (10) runs with the ball in a recent game. (Courtesy of Aaron Jacoby)

Orange High School sophomore Wesley Lundell (10) runs with the ball in a recent game. (Courtesy of Aaron Jacoby)

“I think we’re finally hitting our stride and the kids are believing in what we’re doing,” Mr. Pedroza said. “It looks like we’re in a spot that we have a good shot, I think, to make a good run with this team.”
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Dan Wood

Dan Wood

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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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