Even when both of their faces are hidden beneath a helmet, there is no confusing Fred Morrison with DeVante Parker.
Morrison is 5'11 and 225 pounds, with every bit of that frame stacked with muscle. He is a power back who likes to dish out some punishment while racking up yardage. He is just as fine with running through a defender as he is running by him.
Parker is 6’0 and 160 pounds, with a slender, lean frame. His game is based on speed and elusiveness, and he always has his mind on breaking a big one.
On the surface, the two running backs couldn’t be any more contrasting. Yet, for all of their differences, they are joined together by a common goal: Bringing back winning football to Highland Regional High School.
They are two of the main reasons Highland is 2-1 this year, after winning just once the previous two seasons combined.
“I think we need to just forget about the past and come into every game like it’s a fresh beginning, because this is a new team,” Parker said. “If we do, we can continue to do good things.”
Morrison and Parker have formed a bit of a thunder-and-lightning combo for the Tartans, and are currently the top two runners on the squad. Morrison has been the team’s feature back, carrying the ball 36 times for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Parker has carried the rock 25 times, with two touchdowns and a team-best 7.04 yards per carry.
“I just try to do whatever I can every game and give 100 percent,” said Morrison. “It’s all about the team.”
Morrison describes himself as a power back and one look at him explains why. A blend of natural athleticism and pure determination in the weight room has produced a body that is built to not only endure hits, but give a few out.
“I like to run north and south,” Morrison said. “I don’t get outside as much as DeVante does. He can break some big runs. I try to keep my yards-per-carry up and if I break one, it’s a bonus.”
Parker is the lightning part of the equation. He is not the type of back who is best suited carrying the ball 20 times a game. However, he is the kind of athlete who becomes extremely dangerous when he gets out into open space.
“I’m more of a speed runner,” Parker said. “If I have to run up the middle I will, but mostly I go outside and try for the big play.”
Morrison and Parker are also doing their best to serve as leaders on the team. Each player is a junior and has been around for the tough times over the last couple of seasons. They have seen what can happen when players get down on themselves.
The duo is constantly reminding each other, and their teammates, that one bad play doesn’t have to ruin a game. The blend of positive reinforcement in conjunction with back-to-back victories has led to a noticeable difference on the practice field, according to Morrison.
“A lot more people are acting like they actually want to be here,” Morrison said. “You can see people working harder and trying to step up more. … I think (the wins) give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. We are finally starting to play how we should have been playing the last few years. A lot of people at different positions have stepped it up. It’s a different feeling right now.”