During the preseason, Pickerington High School Central football coach Jay Sharrett joked that only Division I college recruits get to play tight end for his program.
With an offense built around a power running game, there always are plenty of tasks for seniors tight ends Trenton Gillison and Alex Morgan, be it blocking or helping open up the offense with long receptions.
Both Gillison, who committed to Michigan State in January, and Morgan, who pledged to play for the University of Toledo over the summer, have found plenty of ways to contribute while sharing the position.
“He’s pushed me to get better, and that’s what I like about him a lot, too, when we’re on the field,” Morgan said. “He pushes me to be a better athlete and a better player.”
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Gillison, and the 6-5, 250-pound Morgan often are on the field together, depending on the formation, with both sometimes seeing time at wide receiver as well.
“We just complement each other and bring the best out of each other,” Gillison said. “We both bring the extra of what we need to do to win.”
Gillison and Morgan have helped Central get off to a 3-1 start that included a 33-7 victory over Groveport on Sept. 15 as the Tigers bounced back from a 28-19 loss to Trotwood-Madison on Sept. 8.
“What they’ve done is expand their games,” Sharrett said. “They’re both very physical players. Alex is exceptional in the weight room and Trenton is in total control of his body.”
Central is looking to exact revenge Friday, Sept. 22, against visiting Upper Arlington, which beat the Tigers in the first round of the 2015 Division I playoffs and handed them their only regular-season loss a year ago by edging them 35-29 in overtime.
Against Groveport, sophomore quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw completed six of nine passes for 125 yards, with Gillison having two catches for 35 yards and Morgan having one for 21 yards. Gillison’s receptions went for 18 and 17 yards.
It was the kind of steady offensive performance the Tigers were looking for after losing to Trotwood-Madison.
Central, according to Gillison, is hungry for another shot against UA, which lost to Westerville South 26-0 on Sept. 15 and is 2-2.
“I feel like we kind of needed a little humbling so that we know how to face that adversity and dig deep to overcome it,” Gillison said. “We’re going to be tested like that against Upper Arlington. There’s a lot of payback (on the line).”
Gillison leads Central in receptions with seven for 83 yards and scored one of the team’s three touchdowns through the air on a 6-yard pass against Trotwood-Madison.
Morgan had a 46-yard reception in the Tigers’ opening 24-21 victory over Detroit Cass Tech on Aug. 24 at the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl, the same venue he’ll be calling home beginning next fall.
Morgan, who played his first two prep seasons at Pickerington North and had 16 receptions playing mostly tight end for the Panthers in 2015, has twin sisters in Kenzie, a senior who attends Central, and Kelsey, a senior who goes to North.
Morgan also sees time on defense for the Tigers but is expecting to play tight end when he gets to Toledo.
“We’ve got a great team and great athletes (at Central) with great energy,” Morgan said. “It’s a really nice balance (offensively). We can run the ball and we can pass the ball and do whatever we can to establish the offense.”
Gillison also plays baseball for the Tigers but realized several years ago that his future likely would be in football.
Although his father, Russell, is 5-11 and his mother, Dawnyelle, is about 5-6, he inherited his height from several other members of his family, including a great-grandfather who was 6-10.
Gillison is one of six players from central Ohio, along with teammate Xavier Henderson, who has committed to Michigan State.
Henderson, a wide receiver and defensive back, has six catches for 88 yards and was named Division I district Defensive Player of the Year last season.
“Everyone who has committed (to Michigan State) is in a group chat, and we just talk about random stuff like who we’re going to room with,” Gillison said. “Every little kid has dreams of college sports in general, and when it really hit my mind was when I was an eighth-grader and freshman and started to slim out and fill out.
“Coach Sharrett wanted me to play tight end and I’d never played tight end in general. I was actually a lineman and a (defensive) lineman, but everything felt a little bit natural (when I moved to tight end).”