Updated 11:40 am, Tuesday, August 11, 2015
It comes as no surprise that New Canaan would win the state championship in both football and lacrosse this past year. After all, both programs have sustained dominance in their respective sports for over a decade.
"He was really, ready to play as a freshman," New Canaan lacrosse coach Chip Buzzeo said of Morris. "We just had a senior captain All-FCIAC guy in front of him. He’s played in so many big lacrosse games with his club team, the kid was ready--he’s a mature goalie, he never gets too excited, I started coaching drew when he was a seventh grader, he takes complete control of a game and he never gets frazzled ever, I’ve never seen him out of sorts in the four years I’ve known him."
That poise is what makes Morris excel in net at such a young age, even in one of the better lacrosse conferences in the country. Morris held opponents to an outstanding six goals per game during the season, proving to be one of the prolific goalies in the state.
Collins, like Morris, relied on composure. Thrust into the starting role Collins had elite talent around him. Between Alex LaPolice, Michael Kraus, Kyle Smith and the Cognetta brothers Collins had weapons everywhere he looked, which helped with the transition to starter.
Still, in the biggest moment of the biggest game it was Collins with the ball in his hands. After leading a comeback against rival Darien from down 20-7 in the state title game Collins hit LaPolice on a post for a 24 yard touchdown that would be the difference in the contest.
Now Collins will be without the services of LaPolice and Kraus, as well as offensive coordinator Johnny Marinelli, who is taking over as the Greenwich Head Coach.
"I think it’s got to help his confidence going forward," Rams football coach Lou Marinelli said of Collins late-season success last year. "Especially in the summer when he’s doing seven on sevens, he’s a totally different kid than last year, he’s more confident and physically stronger, Mike has put on close to 20 pounds; a year makes a big difference."
Morris, who is already committed to play at the University of Maryland and is also a standout on the Rams hockey team also thinks his post-season experience will help his game moving forward.
"The experience that I have gained from being part of a successful playoff team will help me next season and further on down the road by helping reassure myself that I have been in this situation before and that the team around me will also be able to perform under pressure," Morris said.
Morris, like Collins, had the benefit of veterans around him, and credited that seasoned defense with much of his success.
"Throughout the end of the regular season and in the playoffs I did not feel any pressure about my age or school grade," Morris said. "The veteran defense helped me tremendously in all games but especially down the stretch in the playoffs by giving me an opportunity to make saves and turning them into routine shots. In addition, the older players helped during practice by keeping the team focused during the important last few weeks of practice."
Morris had big shoes to fill in New Canaan, as lacrosse goalies have come and gone from the Rams, garnering awards and finding success at the next level. But those players have formed a kind of fraternity and Buzzeo thinks that is a big part of Morris’ game.
"There’s always been a strong pipeline of goalies in New Canaan for all eternity," Buzzeo said. "I know Gordie Collins, a D3 all American from 03-04, comes back and works with Drew, Tom Carey comes back and that’s what you need to have year in and year out, guys to come back and teach skills."
Another unique similarity between Morris and Collins is their rivals across town. Yes, obviously Darien is the rivalry for every sport at NCHS, but in both situations the Blue Wave too had a young player in the same situation.
For the lacrosse team it was Ryan Cornell, also a sophomore last season and also a state champion. Morris and Cornell split the season series between the two teams and both coaches mentioned looking forward to getting two more years of their battles.
"It’s incredible, and it’s not just those two guys," Buzzeo said. "There was a handful of sophomores on the rest of the teams, it’s a really good young group and it’s not just Darien and New Canaan, you look at Staples and Greenwich and Ridgefield, the FCIAC period there’s a lot of talented young kids and teams keep reloading so it’s fun year in and year out so it’s good those two guys are there."
In football it was Timmy Graham for Darien who outdueled Collins and the Rams in the FCIAC title game a season ago before falling to the same Rams in state’s. Graham, like Collins, is a senior this upcoming season.
"Can you imagine Thanksgiving with those two guys healthy and two teams are at their strength?" Marinelli said of the rivalry with two veterans going at it. "I mean what a great high school game, we’ve had some classic battles and I can’t say enough about (Darien coach, Rob) Trifone and Graham--it makes for a tremendous rivalry."
And it’s only just begun.