Trey Morgan filled a number of roles for the North Augusta High School football team this season. The senior was a playmaking receiver, a Wildcat quarterback and a threat to break loose any time he returned a kickoff or punt.
Morgan was among the area’s best players in each of those roles, and his versatile performance was a huge factor in the Yellow Jackets’ highly successful season. But when Morgan was playing free safety, not only was he the leader of North Augusta’s defense, he was the best defender on any area football team.
Because of that, Morgan has been named the 2012 Aiken Standard Defensive Player of the Year.
“It feels good. There are a lot of good players in the area,” Morgan said of the honor, just the latest in a season that saw him named the Region 5-AAAA Defensive Player of the Year and selected to play in the North-South All-Star Football Game, where he recorded an interception. “The team needed me to make plays; that’s what I did.”
That’s exactly what Morgan did, and in a variety of ways. His many talents weren’t limited to what he could do with the ball in his hands. It included his aptitude in stifling opposing offenses’ running and passing games.
Morgan had three interceptions on the season, placing him among the leaders in the Aiken area. Most of his picks came early in the season because, before long, most quarterbacks tried to avoid any part of the field Morgan was playing. His ability to limit patches of the field made his fellow defensive backs even better, and the Yellow Jackets had one of the best secondaries in the area and all of South Carolina.
But Morgan wasn’t limited to being a coverage ace. He was a great run stopper and could make the instant reads to come up and help the front seven or drop back in coverage. He said his overall versatility benefitted his decision-making on defense.
“From playing offense, I know what guys on offense like to do; that helps me out,” said Morgan, who finished the season with 119 tackles.
That total placed him among the very top players in the area in that category. He never slowed or stopped attacking the ball all season and finished his four-year varsity high school campaign with 19 tackles in a loss to Greenwood in the second round of the Class AAAA, Division II playoffs.
Morgan credits his success to preparation and experience. He said he watches film as much as possible to pick up opponents’ tendencies. He also has the advantage of facing most of his opponents multiple times. Morgan has been a starter the past three seasons.
“I know what the other team does, so I can make a play on the ball in the air. I know when to come up in run support or stay back in coverage,” said Morgan, who didn’t have preference between making an interception or a bone-rattling hit, just as long as either gets his team in the game. He didn’t just lead by example – he was a vocal supporter of his teammates, especially on defense. “If somebody made a mistake, I told them, ‘Don’t hold your head down.’ I’d talk to them and then, just make plays.”
That leadership was also evident prior to the ball being snapped. Morgan was one of the Yellow Jackets responsible for getting his teammates lined up properly.
“He’s a quiet kid, but on the field he takes control and gets everyone where they’re supposed to be,” North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin said. “He’s fun to coach, and that’s a kid I want leading me someday.”
Although Morgan never won a state title, he was a critical part of one of the most successful runs in North Augusta football history. In Morgan’s four seasons playing on varsity – a feat few players can accomplish at a program as competitive as the Yellow Jackets’ – he played on teams that won more than 40 games and made it to the state semifinals twice.
“That means a lot, with all of the good teams that have come through here,” Morgan said. “It was a pretty good year, but it didn’t end the way I wanted it to.”
While his high school playing days are over, Morgan still has lots of football in front of him. He’s currently weighing offers from several colleges, including Furman, Charleston Southern, Presbyterian, South Carolina State and Western Carolina. He said he’s not leaning toward one school in particular yet, and it’s possible his showing in the North-South game could bring him more interest from recruiters.
“He’s got a bunch of offers,” Pippin said earlier this season when heaping praise on Morgan. “I think he’s one of the best players in the state. ... He’ll go anywhere in the country, at any level, and be a starter by the time he’s a junior or senior.”
When selecting a college, Morgan said his work in the classroom will be just as important as his exploits on the gridiron. He said he wants to get the best education possible to help him get a good job, and he’s interested in mechanical engineering as a course of study. That’s something that fits his natural interest and affinity for cars.
“I like to fix things and work on cars,” said Morgan, who added he grew up around mechanics and automotive work because so many members of his extended family were always working on them.
When asked what his favorite car to work on is, and one he’d like to have in his garage one day, Morgan didn’t hesitate to answer.
“The 1959 Impala,” was his answer. “It’s unique, not like any other cars.”
You can say the same thing about Morgan, who is so good at so many different aspect of the game.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.