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August 21, 2014

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prep football:

Legacy tailback McMorris puts elite speed on display

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Justin M. Bowen

Legacy’s LJ McMorris scores the winning touchdown last fall in the Longhorns 7-6 victory against Palo Verde.

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It took one game last fall to show that Legacy High rising junior LJ McMorris has the potential to be one of Southern Nevada’s top running backs.

His exploits three weeks ago hammered home that theory.

The 5-foot-7, 160-pound McMorris ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the Southern Nevada Football Coaches Association Combine in early May, displaying the same breakaway speed that helped him become the biggest star last fall in arguably the most important game of Legacy’s brief four-year school history.

McMorris, a reserve behind all-Northwest Division tailback DeShae Edwards, was called into duty midway through Legacy’s crucial league game against Palo Verde when Edwards injured his ankle. He responded with 84 rushing yards and a 9-yard touchdown run with four minutes remaining to lead the Longhorns to a historic 7-6 victory.

The win helped put an exclamation mark on Legacy’s undefeated regular season and Northwest title. The Longhorns eventually won their first playoff game in school history in advancing to the Sunset Regional semifinals.

McMorris, however, appears to be just getting started. The speed he displayed at the combine showed what the final two years could have in store.

“He’s still a little inexperienced, but he has the talent,” Legacy coach Dave Snyder said. “That speed is legit.”

McMorris’ time was the second fastest at the combine, which was open to athletes at each of the valley’s 30-plus large division schools. Roughly 150 athletes participated, five being clocked at 4.5 seconds or less in the 40-yard dash.

Palo Verde’s Brandon Wright, a talented running back and defensive back with scholarship offers from the likes of Colorado and Arizona, recorded the fastest time at 4.37 seconds.

That puts McMorris in some exclusive company. Well, almost.

“Now, I need to get bigger and stronger,” McMorris said.

McMorris finished the season with 493 yards and three touchdowns, receiving plenty of varsity-level carries as Edwards’ backup. Edwards was one of the valley’s top rushers with 1,511 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Snyder doesn’t expect the running game to miss a beat with McMorris as the featured back.

“He can play with the best of them,” the coach said. “We always make fun of him, saying he was running for his life (against Palo Verde). Whatever the case, he was running fast.”

McMorris has been busy this offseason trying to add bulk to his compact frame in anticipation of the added workload. He is one of several talented younger players Snyder is counting on to replace 30 seniors from last year's team.

“It is very difficult replacing 30 seniors, I don’t care who you are,” Snyder said. “We have some young talent, but we are going to take our lumps at the beginning.”

McMorris doesn’t lack confidence in his abilities. He said he feels Legacy’s trip to the semifinals last fall was just the beginning.

“I expect the upcoming season to be an amazing year,” he said. “I plan on going to the playoffs again, but this time going further. You can see in spring ball that we have the talent. Don’t sleep on us.”

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