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CARTERVILLE — For Reid Morrison, this is it for his football career.

The recent Anna-Jonesboro graduate joined five other teammates Friday night for the fifth annual Southern Illinois All-Star Game. Next weekend, he’s playing in the Illinois High School Shrine Game at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington with Du Quoin’s Shamar Adams and Murphysboro’s Ryan Karg.

After that?

“Oh, I’m planning on tree-trimming for a little bit, and then try to get an apprenticeship as an outside lineman with IBEW 702,” Morrison said.

Simply put, folks, real life is intruding really fast. No more first and 10s, quarterback sacks or breakaway runs for Morrison any more. He’s about to be a working man, getting an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

Which, come to think of it, is fitting for the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Morrison. While he wasn’t the biggest name on Wildcat teams that went a combined 20-4 the last two years and won four playoff games, A-J wouldn’t have gotten there without his help.

A running back and defensive end for the Wildcats, Morrison contributed big plays on both sides of the ball and a lot of leadership. The latter came in handy in 2018, when A-J got off to an 0-2 start and then won eight straight games before losing in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs at Monticello.

It wasn’t like the Wildcats’ two losses were bad ones. West Frankfort nipped them 24-21 on a rainy opening night in Anna, and Murphysboro rallied for a 27-23 victory the following week. Both teams went on to make the playoffs.

But Morrison and 19 other seniors ignored the gloom and doom predictions outsiders issued. They righted the ship at Massac County in a rain-shortened Week 3 win, then drilled a good Nashville team in their SIRR Mississippi opener.

The Wildcats snapped a tie for first place in the conference by rallying for a 36-35 win at Du Quoin Oct. 5. After beating Sparta to win the conference outright, A-J exacted revenge in its playoff opener by blowing out West Frankfort 56-28.

“A lot of people were doubting us because the first two losses were tough,” Morrison said. “I don’t think everyone was all-in at first, but the losses were a wake-up call.”

Morrison was a big part of the playoff win over West Frankfort, rushing 12 times for 125 yards and four touchdowns. While quarterback Connor Jerolds and fullback Damien Chrisp each collected more than 1,000 yards on the ground, Morrison was a good complement to the duo, often producing big plays running off-tackle and using speed to get to the boundary. He finished the season with 883 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging close to 10 yards per carry.

As a junior, when the Wildcats’ offense centered around area Player of the Year Jace Turner and quarterback Bryce Osman, Morrison stung Carterville with 113 yards and a 79-yard touchdown run in a 41-7 Week 5 rout.

Now, for his last two games of football before adult responsibilities begin intruding, Morrison suits up with old and new teammates. Like many area all-stars, Morrison has enjoyed getting to know guys that he tried his hardest to beat while wearing A-J’s blue and white.

“It means a lot to me seeing all these guys coming together that you’ve been competing against for four years, or longer,” he said. “You’re making new friends. They’re just like the same guys you’ve played with your whole career.

“This week has been really cool. It’s going to be a blast to play with my A-J teammates one last time. And it’s exciting to play with new guys.”

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