A day before competing in his first tournament as a member of the Powell High School boy’s soccer team, tragedy struck the family of freshman Garrett Morris. Morris’ grandmother passed …
A day before competing in his first tournament as a member of the Powell High School boy’s soccer team, tragedy struck the family of freshman Garrett Morris. Morris’ grandmother passed away, leading Panther head coach Dave Gilliatt to wonder if the young midfielder would be able to play.
“For some that might not be that big of a deal, but he [Morris] was really close to his grandma,” Gilliatt said. “He came at it like, ‘She would want me to play, she would be here watching me if she were alive.’ So he played. He’s just mentally tough, really committed.”
For his part, Morris called his grandma Judy “his biggest fan,” reiterating that on the field was where she would want him to be.
“She tried to make every single one of my games. She was probably my number one fan,” Morris said. “It made me want to go out there and do the best I can and show her what I can do.”
Born in Boise, Idaho, Morris moved to Powell in the second grade. He began playing soccer at the age of 4, and has been devoted to the sport since; it’s the only sport he competes in. In addition to the Panthers, he also plays for the Wyoming 307 and the Wyoming ODP teams.
“With soccer, I’ve been able to play international teams at times, meet new kids all around the state of Wyoming, kids from other states,” he explained. “I really like the team part, getting to work together as a team.”
It’s been a freshman season to remember for Morris so far: The Panthers are 7-2 overall, and are currently ranked No. 2 in the state in 3A. Much of that success can be attributed to the play of the team’s first and second-year players, a group that’s been playing together since they were old enough to kick a ball. Of the 26 or so players on the varsity roster, 18 are underclassmen; players like Morris, Hawkin Sweeney, Jesse Trotter, Kaleb Brown, Landon Sessions and Sam and Reece Bauer have seen extensive playing time and thrived in Gilliatt’s system.
And Gilliatt, true to his word, has demonstrated a willingness to play the best players, regardless of class.
“Coach Gilliatt really knows the game, and him putting the best 11 on the field really helps; him knowing the game and the players willing to put their effort out there has really helped with our success,” Morris said. “We know each other really well, we know our strengths and weaknesses.”
“And the older players, guys like Steven Shopa, really provide leadership which has helped a lot,” Morris added. “He [Shopa] pushes us to be our best every practice and game.”
Morris has emerged as just one of many standouts this season, becoming a player coach Gilliatt can count on to dictate play in the middle of the field.
“To his credit, he [Morris] is the type of kid that lets other kids know where they need to be,” Gilliatt said.”And he’s in a position [at holding mid] where he uses more of his intelligence and experience and less of his athleticism in that position. As he grows as a player, he’ll become more athletic, but right now we’re playing to his strengths: vision, intelligence and communication.”
Off the pitch, Gilliatt said Morris has displayed a maturity that belies his years, displaying a singular focus and determination with the game he loves.
“He’s never a player that I need to worry whether his grades are going to be good enough, is he more focused on his girlfriend, is he staying up too late, that kind of thing,” Gilliatt said of Morris. “He’s the type of kid that gets up early on a Saturday and Sunday and watches all the Premier League games. Why? Because he loves the sport; he eats, sleeps and breathes it. And that comes through in his style of play. He emulates what he sees.”
A player constantly working to improve his game, Morris has earned respect for his work ethic and what he brings to the team.
“When he [Morris] wasn’t there for the Cody game [due to illness], we felt it,” Gilliatt said. “I think his teammates respect him because they respect his playing ability, his level-headedness and the asset he is to the team.”
And as the Panthers head into the second half of the season, with an eye toward the state tournament in Jackson next month, Morris said there’s still a long way to go to get where he and his teammates want to be.
“We have to keep practicing hard,” he said. “We can’t be cocky and think we have it, because we don’t. We need to keep going and train hard.”