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Double Clutch

With Morton twins, Riverside North's title bid is twice as strong

November 23, 2002|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

It happens once in a while on the football field: An argument with seemingly no end between two 16-year-olds each trying to get in the last word.

Some teammates find it funny. Some coaches find it unsettling.

Twin brothers, chipping at each other.

Damon Morton, older than Dion by one minute -- some would say they even competed coming out of the womb -- implores the quarterback to throw the ball farther. Dion yells at his brother, the receiver, to run the right route.

Sibling rivals. Best friends. Just maybe, two-time section football champions.

With the Morton twins setting the tone, Riverside North began defense of its Southern Section Division V football title on Friday with a 32-0 first-round victory over Norco at Riverside College.

North (8-3) got three touchdowns and 120 yards rushing from Josh Barnett and posted its first shutout of the season, limiting Norco (5-6) to 146 yards.

And, as usual, the Mortons were in the middle of things.

Damon, the receiver, got things started by throwing, not catching, a pass that resulted in a 49-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. He also caught three passes for 43 yards.

Dion completed nine of 18 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown and ran for 43 yards in six carries. His 17-yard scramble set up a 32-yard field goal by Zach Romero on the last play of the half to put North up, 18-0.

Norco Coach Gary Campbell knew what his team was in for against the Mortons and the Cougars still couldn't stop them.

"You can tell they've played together a lot," he said. "They look more in sync than the other guys."

Well, at least they're in sync on the football field. "We argue all the time over video games, sports, grades," Damon said. Added Dion: "With each other, we don't hold back any feelings."

But there's no argument about the Morton twins' impact on North football.

Last season, Damon was chosen as the state's best sophomore player by Cal-Hi Sports after he caught 83 passes for nine touchdowns. This year, Ivy League coaches can make a good case for choosing Dion, North's catalyst, as the most valuable player in the league.

"When I watch them, I'm like, 'Dang, there's not much room to make a play,' and then they make it," North defensive tackle Duke De La O said. "They'll make something out of nothing. To me, it's just an everyday thing."

The big-play twins are part of a nucleus of juniors -- De La O, Barnett, nose guard Devin McWilliams and tight end Adam Wright are the others -- who have been winning games for North ever since they arrived on campus. They were 10-0 on the freshman team, then 10-4 and section champions as sophomores on the varsity.

"There was a group of six kids on that team who we knew were something special, and Damon and Dion were the two that everyone knew about," said first-year Coach Steve Hagerty, who spent the previous two seasons as the Huskies' offensive coordinator. "We all shook our heads in disbelief last year, but Dion and Damon aren't sneaking up on anyone anymore."

As defenses focus on Damon and Dion, the offense has become more diversified. Last season, 74.1% of Dion's completed passes were to Damon. That's down to about 39% this year.

Opposing defenses rarely offer more competition than the twins get from each other, a rivalry that was encouraged by their older brother, Donovan, 25, a former high school quarterback who later became a football coach and is now a game official.

"They had a natural competition against each other," Donovan said. "I would always put them against each other anytime we were outside playing."

Competing against each other, Donovan said, helped the twins develop skills, whether it was in the classroom or on athletic fields -- both are on the varsity basketball and track teams as well as football.

The boys and their mother, LaVerne, and grandmother, Sebastian Melonson, live in cramped quarters in a Riverside home where Dion and Damon sleep in a bunk bed, fight over PlayStation and vie for LaVerne's attention.

"It's a constant balancing act," LaVerne said. "I always have to be careful to keep everything even."

The boys' father, Maurice, often can be found on the sidelines during games, helping mark the spot of the ball as part of the volunteer chain crew.

Damon is the more outgoing of the twins and is willing to show his flamboyant side on the field. Dion is reserved and serious, acting more like a coach in the huddle. A natural leader, he was voted team captain when only a sophomore.

Damon is considered the better college prospect because, at 5 feet 11, 175 pounds, he is more physically mature. Not only is he averaging about 17 yards a reception, he has four interceptions and three fumble recoveries at defensive back, is averaging 14.3 yards on punt returns and 24.5 yards on kickoff returns.

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