MORRIS — It has been a long-standing tradition at Morris Community High School that the football players vote in order to name team captains.
That was again the case this season, and the top four vote-getters were seniors Zach Reddinger, Brandon Phelps, Robbie Bates and Nolan Swartz. Swartz follows in the footsteps f his older brother, Dylan, who was a captain on last year's squad.
Reddinger, Phelps and Bates were basically slam-dunks as far as the voting went, as all three were starters on one side of the ball or the other - or both - for last season's team, which finished with a 4-5 record and did not qualify for the IHSA playoffs. Head coach Alan Thorson said that Swartz was voted in as the fourth by a fairly large margin.
"We knew Zach, Robbie and Brandon would probably be the top three, and they were," he said. "We weren't sure who the fourth might be. There was a group of four or five that I could think of that they might vote for, but Nolan was clearly the fourth one when the votes came in.
"I think the kids made good choices with all four. Those guys have been the ones that have been doing things rightin the off-season. They have been hitting the weight rom and pushing the other guys on the team to do the same. In the end, it's the kids' team, so we like to let them decide who their captains are. Even with as much time as we spend with them, we don't know exactly they look to for leadership, so we let them decide and, we feel like they made good choices. These guys will be good captains for us."
For all of the captains, getting their teammates' vote of confidence was a geat way to start the season.
"It definitely feels good to be named as a captain," Swartz said. "There are a lot of other guys that could have been named, too. That's a good problem to have, choosing between a lot of leaders. If one of us gets hurt or something and isn't around as much as they would like to be, there are others that will be able to step right in."
Reddinger, Phelps and Bates have been named captains of various teams throughout their athletic careers, so they know what is expected. They all feel they have what it takes to be a Redskin captain.
"I wasn't too surprised when I was voted as a captain," said Phelps, who was a running back and linebacker last season and will return to those roles again this yaer. "I don't feel any extra pressure, because I have done it before."
Although he was a wide reciever for a bulk of the season last year, Reddinger did see some time at quarterback, where he will take over full-time this year.
"I have grown up in Morris and watched the Redskins my whole life," he said. "I know what it means to be a Redskin captain, and I am excited to have that responsibility this year. We have to keep the guys focused and we all have our different styles of leadership. Some of us are more lead by example and some of us are more vocal.
"But we know we have to be a little more vocal this year and keep pushing the rest of the team. Especially the younger guys that are playing varsity football for the first time. We want to carry on that Redskin tradition and we want them to carry it on after we leave."
Bates will return to his starting spot at center on the offensive line, where he will be in charge making sure the rest of the line knows its blocking assignments, as well as taking a linebacker spot on defense.
"We all have our own thing we are good at," Bates said. "Some of us are a little more vocal than others, but even the ones who aren't very vocal can be if they need to be. And, the rest of the team knows that if those guys say something, they mean it, so they better listen.
"We are excited about the season. We've spent a lot of time working hard and we're ready to get the season going."