At this time next year, Jamal Morrow will be developing his football skills further as a freshman at Washington State University. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior at Heritage High School took care of that commitment back in September.
First, however, he has some unfinished business here in Menifee.
Friday night, Morrow will lead the Heritage High Patriots against crosstown rival Paloma Valley in a Sunbelt League game at Heritage. While trying to help his team improve upon a 6-1 record against a Paloma Valley team that is also 6-1, Morrow figures to pad his impressive statistics as well.
In seven games this season, Morrow has rushed for 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns. His longest run from scrimmage was 80 yards and he has also returned a kickoff 98 yards for a TD. He is averaging 187 yards rushing per game.
"My personal goal was to go over 1,000 yards before the halfway point of the season," said Morrow, who had 1,001 yards after five games. "I guess I'm hitting my goals."
With help from a veteran offensive line, to which Morrow says "I give all the credit," he has maintained an impressive pace in the offensive backfield against all defenders.
In last week's 24-7 victory over Temescal Canyon, Morrow ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He also is a steady player as a defensive back. In fact, it is his raw ability and versatility that sold the Washington State Cougars on him as a running back, even though he doesn't have great size for a major college football player.
"I took an unofficial trip to Utah, and they said I was being recruited as a cornerback," Morrow said. "Washington State said size doesn't matter to them; I can just play, period. I fell in love with the place, the new facility they have and everythibng. And (coach) Mike Leach is not just all athletics; he focuses on academics, too."
Morrow, who says he plans to major in kinesiology, is happy he no longer has to worry about the college recruiting scene. He can concentrate on the task at hand, which includes running against a powerful Paloma Valley defense Friday night.
"All I know is, it's a big game," he said. "We're trying to treat it like a normal game, but I know it will be more intense. I went to middle school with half those guys.
"We'll do our part on defense to keep it low scoring, but it looks like it could be a shootout. It should come down to the defenses and who makes the big plays."
Morrow acknowledged that he and his teammates will have more the usual emotions going into the game -- and not just because they are playing Paloma Valley. Before the game, the school will pay tribute to Donovan Adams, a Patriots football player last year who died in an auto accident in June.
"My first year on varsity, he took me under his wing," Morrow said about Adams. "He taught me how to be a leader. I was very close to him.
"It's going to be a hard night, but once the lights come on, we'll be all business."