Father Would Be Proud Of Daughter's Nomination


Somewhere in heaven, Jack Morris is sporting a huge grin and his chest is bursting with pride.

His satisfaction stems from the accomplishments of one of the loves of his life, his eldest daughter Courtney, who has been nominated for Payson High School's 2007 homecoming queen.


Courtney Morris

Courtney, a senior honor student and part-time Starbucks barista, was chosen last week to vie for royalty honor.

What renders Courtney's selection especially moving is that her father, a 1987 graduate of PHS, was a school alum who dedicated much of his life to coaching football at both Payson High School and Rim Country Middle School.

Jack died Feb. 21, 2004 in a Phoenix hospital from a stroke, suffered days earlier. He was 34 years old at the time of his death.

Jack, a four-year football player at Payson High, was a senior lineman on the 1986 Longhorn team that advanced to the state championship before losing to Snowflake, 7-0.

In 1995 during Jack's first stint in coaching, he helped lead the Rim Country Middle School Mavericks to an undefeated season and the White Mountain League championship.

The following year, he moved to the high school, where he eventually coached highly successful freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams.

The highlight of his short career might have been coaching the offensive and defensive lines on Payson's 1998 state championship team that featured his two younger brothers -- Cable Morris and Josh Barnhart.

Jack's high school jersey, No. 70, was retired during halftime homecoming ceremonies held Sept. 24, 2004 in a game against the Prescott Badgers. A PHS football player has not worn the number since.

Jack is also fondly remembered each summer at a benefit golf tournament that is held to raise money for the football team and other extracurricular activities at PHS. Many of his former teammates, coaches and fellow students annually participate.

Classmates of his in the PHS graduating class of 2007 are preparing this month for their class reunion.

For the upcoming homecoming ceremonies, Courtney's plans are to honor her father's memory by wearing his jersey during the Sept. 28 parade on Main Street.

"I think my dad would want me to do that," she said. "It's something I want to do, too."

At mid-week, while Courtney was working at Starbucks, she received a long distance call from her father's longtime childhood friend, Mark Velasco, who congratulated her on being selected a homecoming candidate.

During the brief conversation, Courtney giggled, laughed and understandably shed tears, which she tried to hide.

Having been a former classroom teacher to Courtney and a coach and friend of Jack's, I know personally the father-daughter respect and love the two harbored for one another.

No matter who wins the queen title, Courtney has made her father proud.

Winners to Flagstaff

All local youngsters who finished first in their age/sex groups at the Payson NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick will compete 9 a.m. Sept. 29 against other local winners from around Northern Arizona.

The competition will be held on the outdoor field near the NAU Skydome in Flagstaff.

In the Payson showdown, which was held Sept. 7 on the Payson High School baseball field, Taylor Wallace won the 11-year-old boys division with a three-event total of 151 feet, 11 inches.

In the 12-13-years boys division, Kevin Robles out-dueled Tyler Apps for the title. Robles finished with 165 feet and Apps carded 132 feet, 7 inches.

Among the 14-15-years boys, Steve Andrus posted a mark of 235 feet, 7 inches that was almost 100 feet better than his nearest competition.

Brian Skinner won the 9-10-years boys title, with a mark of 137 feet, 11 inches.

Only seven inches behind him was runner-up Brigham Flake.

In the girls division, winners were Sadie Tuckfield (9-10 years; 71 feet, 1 inch), Brittany Robles (12-13-years; 71 feet, 5 inches) and Katie Hancock (14-15-years; 126 feet, 8 inches).

In the girls division, winners were Sadie Tuckfield (9-10 years; 71 feet, 1 inch), Brittany Robles (12-13-years; 71 feet, 5 inches) and Katie Hancock (14-15-years; 126 feet, 8 inches).

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