Morris Heading Down Under

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If you're not a role model, football coaches don't want you along on the 11th Annual Down Under bowl journey to Australia and New Zealand when it begins June 28 at Sky Harbor International Airport Phoenix.

Playing ability is only one of the criteria coaches use when selecting high school players for the bowl game. Also taken into consideration are citizenship, academic accomplishments and contributions to school and community.

For those reasons, Payson High School senior Cable Morris was issued an invitation to play in this summer's event by George O'Scanlon, President of International Sports Specialists. ISS governs the bowl games.

His selection, Morris said, "was an extreme honor. It's a privilege to represent the USA, my teammates and the Town of Payson."

O'Scanlon says the games are "a once in a lifetime opportunity -- those who have gone in the past have had an unforgettable and life-changing experience."

Among the Payson High School players who have participated in previous bowl games are Curtice Smith, Tom Rauh, Tyler Herrera, Jon Gunzel, Dan Dunn and Brent Calkins.

In Australia and New Zealand, the American players have the opportunity to interact with the country's natives. They often visit high schools and are usually invited for home stays. Many are often asked to sign autographs, trade American memorabilia for those of the locals and sometimes appear on television and radio.

Visits to the Great Barrier Reef, rain forests, Aborigine tribal lands and a stop in Hawaii during the return trip are also on the itinerary.

O'Scanlon says the youngsters, "not only see a part of the world that is truly fascinating, but also act as ambassadors for America."

In July of 1995, former PHS coach Dan Dunn accompanied Calkins, Gunzel and son Daniel on the jaunt Down Under. The three were standouts of the Horns, 1994 team that reached the state semi-finals.

Following the foursome's return, all agreed they were there to play football but the cultural and educational benefits were equally as rewarding.

One of the highlights, they said, was a winding train ride through the rain forests at Kuranda where they were able to mingle with the Aborigine tribes, one of the world's oldest civilizations.

During the visit to the Great Barrier Reef, Gunzel enrolled in a SCUBA course and later viewed the spectacles from the ocean depths.

"The country was easily one I could live in," said coach Dunn.

Hearing the tales and experiences of those who preceded him has Morris champing at the bit.

"I'm excited," Morris said. "Can't wait to go."

The game
In Australia, the Arizona team of which Morris is a member will play an all-star team from another state in the U.S. That state has not yet been determined, O'Scanlon said.

The Arizona team will be coached by Mingus' Mike Epperson and will include some of the state's most outstanding players representing school classifications 1A through 5A.

Morris said he has not yet been told all the details of the contest, but was told several of the team's practice sessions will be in Sydney's Olympic Stadium.

In earlier years of the bowl game, the Arizona All-Stars played against Australian-New Zealand squads comprised of players as old as 30 years that were chosen from the country's semi-pro leagues.

But because of the Australians' lack of knowledge of American rules, the games were mostly lopsided affairs.

Coach Dunn's '95 team beat the Tropic Red Wings 74-6.

The Australian players, Dunn said, "don't stay at home defensively. They run to the ball so all the misdirection (plays) worked."

He also returned to Arizona with loads of praise, "There, sportsmanship is unparalleled. They don't have the negative, cutthroat attitudes that you sometimes see in the United States."

Why chosen?
Morris was selected to play in the bowl game, PHS coach Jim Beall said, because "he is a young man with outstanding character. Confidence, integrity, respect for others and work ethic are qualities that make him an outstanding young man."

W.J. Maher, a computer-aided drafting and design instructor at Payson High, said of Morris, "While in my class, Cable has demonstrated imagination unlike most young people his age. I know with his leadership and attitude, Cable will enhance any team, class or program he's involved with."

One of Morris' greatest honors occurred a year ago when he was selected one of the "Best of the Best in Gila County" -- an inaugural program of the Sheriff's Department which honors two outstanding student-athletes from each county high school.

He has also been a member of the student council at Payson High School, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a school peer counselor.

Athletically, he was a co-captain on the 1998 Class 3A state championship team and twice selected for all-division honors.

In wrestling, he was a two-year varsity letter winner.

He was also crowned the 1997 "Ironman" winner as the strongest athlete at PHS.

In addition to being selected for the Down Under Bowl, Morris was tapped to represent the southwestern United States in the Frankfurt Bowl to be held this summer in Germany. However, because of the turmoil in Europe, the game was canceled.

Sponsors needed for travel expenses

For Cable Morris to participate in the two-week, long cultural-sports exchange to Australia and New Zealand, he must earn his own travel expenses which amount to about $2,500.

As a part-time employee of Daryl's Precision and Milling Services in Payson, he can foot some of the expenses himself.

He hopes to earn even more at a benefit car wash to be held April 17 at a yet undetermined location. He is also selling commemorative T-shirts inscribed with football and Australian logos.

Like other players selected for the bowl games, he is searching for sponsors to help defray the cost. Organizers say a major source of funding comes from the voluntary contributions of family and friends.

Call Cable's mother, Terry, at 474-2585 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. for more information. In the evenings call Cable at 474-6353.

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