There are always some questions that need to be answered when a player makes the jump from junior varsity to varsity football.
It was no different for Taravella running back Jawanza Evans-Morris last fall as he prepared to make the jump in his sophomore season.
"At his age it's a matter of whether or not you can handle the punishment and physical aspect of varsity football and to be able to withstand the intensity," said Taravella head coach Dan Marguriet.
That matter was settled very quickly.
Evans-Morris immediately emerged as the Trojans’ biggest weapon, fitting perfectly into Marguriet's run-heavy offense by rushing for seven touchdowns in the first two games of the 2012 season alone. By the end of the season, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound rusher ran for 634 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"Being young and adjusting to the speed and intensity of the varsity game was the biggest obstacle. You have to be quick and on your toes because the linemen are quicker, the linebackers are quicker... everything is quicker," Evans-Morris said. "But that gets you motivated and it gets you going."
A PERFECT COMBINATION
Marguriet was not surprised by Evans-Morris' quick ascension to playing a prominent role in his offense. He had seen what he was capable of the previous spring when he began working with the varsity team, and it translated into a success last fall.
"He has a combination of skills that makes him a great running back," he said. "He's got good feet; he's not the fastest but he can change direction quickly and make you miss, which is what you want from a running back. He has great vision, very instinctive, and has great hands as a pass catcher."
Marguriet also praised Evans-Morris for what he brings to the table away from the football field as well.
"Aside from being a good football player he's a good person," Marguriet said. "He has a winning personality on and off the field. He listens and he's coachable."
It's a combination that has made Evan-Morris a formidable force, and could set him up for an even bigger year in his junior season. If last year was the introduction, this could be the year he breaks loose.
"Now that I'm used to the [speed of varsity] it's a regular thing now," Evans-Morris said. "It's going to be a good season for all of us; everyone is hyped and pumped and ready to go. We're ready to go out there and have fun and play good football."
CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER
The Trojans came up just short of defending their 2011 district title last season, losing the district tiebreaker that would have earned them a spot in the postseason with Evans-Morris forced to watch from the sidelines due to a late-season knee injury that cut his season short. And that didn't sit well for him.
"The injury was a heartbreaker. It got to me emotionally, physically," Evans-Morris said. "It hurt not being out there because I couldn't contribute and our chances at the playoffs were shut down."
Marguriet added: "By the end of the year he was our go-to weapon, it was a big loss. He has a chip on his shoulder and we're expecting him to come up big for us this year."
That chip has fueled a fire for Evans-Morris, who has used his time this offseason to work on getting quicker and stronger as a runner.
"His work ethic is phenomenal; he is a tireless worker and loves the weight room," Marguriet said. "I can't recall him ever missing a workout or a practice. He's committed to himself as an athlete and to the team."
For a goal-oriented player like Evans-Morris, his drive and motivation for putting in the work that he does is built on the foundation of one goal -- the ultimate goal.
"I want to get to the state championship. I want to get that ring, I want to get that trophy. That's what I'm thinking about whenever I'm in the weight room or on the field," said Evans-Morris, who has also set a personal goal of 1,200 rushing yards for this fall. "I'm always working hard to get there."