Exceeding expectations

The Marvin Ridge football team is 2-0 despite replacing a host of starters

by Aaron Garcia

Players such as (from left) Trey Cherry, Tyler Chadwick, Luke Stennett, Jonathan Chang, Cameron Hunt and Cameron Pittman have helped the Mavs jump out to a 2-0 record this season.

Cameron Pittman’s interception last week accomplished several things for the Marvin Ridge High School football team. For one, it halted rival Ardrey Kell’s attempt at a last-minute, game-winning drive, ensuring the Mavericks’ 21-18 win.

The victory was especially impressive since the Knights erased a 21-6 first-half deficit and were pushing for a game-winning score with just seconds to go. The interception also kept the Mavericks undefeated with a 2-0 record, capping one of the area’s best games this year. It also gave the Mavericks a third consecutive win in as many years over the Knights, who are expected to make a run at the ultra-competitive Southwestern 4A conference crown.

But most important, the interception proved everyone wrong.

Entering this season, Marvin Ridge was expected to take a step back from last year’s success, when it went 9-3. And the underwhelming prognostications seemed fair; Marvin Ridge entered the season with the tall order of replacing a whopping 28 seniors from last season, including 17 starters. K.J. Brent, the Mavs’ record-setting receiver, was gone, as were running backs Kolly Ogar and David Bryant. Three members of the offensive line graduated, as did most of the linebacking corps and a majority of the secondary.

Labeling 2011 a rebuilding year didn’t seem like much of a stretch.

But quarterback Tyler Chadwick, a three-year starter, said the veterans who did return weren’t about to let the team make excuses.

“We sat everybody down early in the year and said, ‘This is not going to be a rebuilding year, our senior year is not going to be a rebuilding year – people may say it will be, but it won’t,’” Tyler Chadwick explained. “’We’re going to work hard, and we’re going to win.’

“That was our goal, and that’s going to happen.”

According to Chadwick, the coaches didn’t stand pat and accept the team’s perceived fate, either.

“We sat down in individual meetings and they let us know, ‘Hey, if you guys don’t work hard this year, you’re not going to be good. In order for us to overcome what we lost, we are going to have to work hard in the offseason,’” the quarterback said. “And I think we worked very hard. I’m glad we did.”

But in actuality, said safety Luke Stennett, the returning players didn’t need much motivation. Replacing all those starters was fuel enough.

“I actually loved it, I thought it would be a nice little challenge and I knew I had faith in my team,” he said. “I just knew we were going to be good either way; with or without them.”

Added coach Scott Chadwick: “I definitely think they’ve heard what people have said, and they’ve heard the talk that the program is going to take some steps back as the result of losing some of those guys. I think some of (the current players) have taken it personally, and it’s been a motivating factor for them.”

Stennett said the team’s motivation was evident as early as last winter, when he noticed how hard both the newcomers and returning veterans were working in the weight room.

“That’s when I first saw it,” Stennett said. “I knew we were going to be a great team.”

As a result of the work, the Mavericks have been able to seamlessly transition a host of new starters into their lineup, especially along the lines. Returning starters Jonathan Chang and Trey Cherry have been joined by former JV tight end Jordan Thomas, sophomore Danny Brock and Cam Hunt, who earned valuable time last year. Hunt also doubles as a defensive tackle next to Phil Younis (two sacks). Defensive ends Adam Smits (three sacks) and Taylor Latu also have been impressive this season.

“I’m pleased with how we’ve handled that so far,” Scott Chadwick said. “Those guys have exceeded my expectations the first couple of weeks.”

Receivers Derek Smith (eight catches for 107 yards), Carter Hill (seven catches for 114 yards) and Carter Harris (six catches for 106 yards) have also emerged as effective starters, as have running backs Jacob Henderson (31 carries, 111 yards) and Joey Sanguine (nine carries, 69 yards).

But even with all the sweat equity, the Mavericks needed some proof that their hard work was going to pay off, both for the newcomers trusted with hoisting the mantle their successors established, as well as for the returning veterans relying on fresh faces to make sure 2011 doesn’t fall under the dreaded “rebuilding” category. The win over Ardrey Kell provided just that.

“Some of these young guys haven’t been a part of what we’ve been doing (for the last couple of years),” Scott Chadwick said.” For them to have an experience like (the win over Ardrey Kell) and understand how good it can be, I think this is a great experience for them.

“I think that certainly gives the older guys a lot of confidence that they’re going to get some help (from the younger guys).”

Hunt agreed.

“It’s a great feeling to know as we’ve worked our butts off, (the new guys have) also done the same to help back us up,” Hunt said.

It also helps when the veterans provide a good example to follow on the field. Take, for example, how Tyler Chadwick completed the Ardrey Kell win despite suffering a shoulder separation early in the third quarter.

“Obviously, he was playing in an awful amount of pain,” said the coach of his son, who might be replaced by Smith, last year’s JV quarterback, if the injury persists. “That toughness sets the tone.”

This week, the Mavs travel to rival Cuthbertson, and Scott Chadwick said that while last week’s win was nice, he doesn’t want his team to forget what got it to 2-0 in the first place.

“I think we have to realize it’s only two games,” he said. “When you look at the rest of our schedule, there’s an awful lot of good football teams we still have to play. We have to understand who we are – that’s a blue-collar, hard-working, tough team. We’re not an overly talented bunch, and we’re not big. We’re not talented, and we’re not fast. We have to understand why we’ve gotten where we are – and that’s being smart and tough.

“We’re no where near where we need to be,” he continued. “I think the good thing is, with as many new guys as we have out here, we’re going to get better as the year goes on, if we’re healthy.”

But that also doesn’t mean the Mavs shouldn’t be pleased with the point they’ve proven so far this season.

“To start proving people wrong is awesome,” said Hunt.

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