Dunlap's football talent grows to meet the moment against East Peoria

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

DUNLAP — Containing Gabriel Zeigler-Harris was the top priority for the Dunlap defense.

The prolific East Peoria running back was coming off a pair of earlier season games in which he rushed for 419 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Friday, however, was a way different story.

Dunlap clamped down Zeigler-Harris and rolled to a 49-0 victory over the Mid-Illini Conference visitor Raiders. He finished with 31 yards and 12 carries.

“He’s a great athlete,” said Dunlap senior Sam Morgan said. “We scouted him out. Our whole thing this week was … get him down, and that’s the game. That’s what we did.”

Added Dunlap coach Brett Cazalet, “Our kids were really focused because of what he’s done so far this season.”

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Morgan anchors the defensive line with sophomore Pierce Morrison and freshman De-Zon McCaston. That trio helped limit the East Peoria offense to negative-11 yards in the first half.

Keeping his teammates accountable for maxing out both at their daily morning workouts and afternoon practices is where success begins, according to Morgan, who serves as a team captain along with Diego Pantoja and Drew Stone.

“Just the little things like that,” the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder said. “Us three captains, we’re pretty on our guys about it. We’ve had no ineligibility. No one’s gotten into trouble. I think we’ve done a good job.”

Transforming into the player he is now is what makes Morgan special. The two-way lineman has started since his sophomore year and has shown an incredible weight room work ethic. He benches 315 pounds, squats 505 and has several colleges interested in his services including a Division-II offer from Quincy University.

“He’s a difference maker,” Cazalet said. “The dedication he’s shown. He’s turned himself into a great football player.”

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On the offensive side of the ball, Dunlap has a whole arsenal full of dynamic players. Quarterback Madyn Burke, running back Brayden Orr and wide receiver Graham Glover took care of most of the first-half scoring.

Burke, who finished 5-for-6 with 139 yards, found Glover (91 receiving yards) for 30-yard and 25-yard touchdowns. Orr scored a trio of touchdowns — 11, 5 and 8 yards — to go with 88 yards on 12 carries.

“In high school football … it’s not complicated, you know,” Cazalet said. “Give it to your guys who can make plays, and we’re fortunate that we got a few guys who can make plays. Those are the guys we’re trying to get the ball to.”

The Eagles (3-2, 2-1) host Canton (1-4, 1-2) in Week 6 before ending the season on a three-game gauntlet against Washington, Morton and Metamora. Cazalet says he’s happy to get some of the underclassmen experience and see improvement from his team.

“We’re heading the right way,” he said, “but no doubt, the next four games are going to be extremely challenging for us.”

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.