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Howard Morris

Crater High 1954

Howard Morris has spent a lifetime in athletics, but it was one of the great upsets in Rogue Valley high school history that remains among his most memorable events.

Fifty years ago, Morris was a member of the Crater High football team that stunned vaunted Medford High, 20-14. It was the 2-A Comets' first-ever game against a 1-A team and remains the Central Point school's only football win over the Black Tornado.

The 1953 team held a reunion in early September, when it was inducted into the school's hall of fame.

— I told everybody that after some 40 years of playing and coaching, says Morris, a longtime athletic director and coach at Oregon Institute of Technology, there are a handful of games that stick out. And that Medford-Crater game was one of the first ones.

Morris, 67, resigned six weeks ago as Cascade Conference commissioner. He was the OIT athletic director from 1974-92 and was the head coach in football, wrestling and baseball during a 30-year stint at the Klamath Falls school.

In addition, he served on a number of NAIA national committees, is a past president of the NAIA Wrestling Coaches Association, was honored as the NAIA administrator of the year in 2000 and was inducted in the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1996.

Through it all stands that game a half-century ago.

We were probably initially wondering what we were getting ourselves into, says Morris, but the coaches did a good job of building us up. You know that old adage 'They put their pants on one leg at a time.' Sizewise, we matched up pretty good with them. We had a good football team.

Early in the game, Morris blocked a punt and recovered it, then minutes later recovered a fumble to set up Crater's first TD. While Harvey Tonn and Gordie Carrigan were scoring TDs, Morris and Melvin Harsh were leading the defense.

After high school, Morris planned to attend Oregon State and follow in his dad's footsteps in the forest service but changed his mind after the 1954 Shrine Game.

I found out I could play with those guys, he says, adding that best friend Larry Bigham was headed to Linfield. I just jumped on the bus and went up there with him.

What he thought would be two years of ball and then on to Oregon State turned into four years, many postseason honors and a career in athletics.

Morris spent four years teaching and coaching at Tigard High, then latched on at OIT. He retired in 1992 but continued his NAIA and conference work.

A couple of things he hasn't retired from are fishing ' his parents used to own Fish Lake and Willow Lake resorts ' and spring baseball trips to Arizona, where he and his wife, Ginger, have Giants season tickets.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail