Thursday, November 29, 2007
Pats of ’88
A weekly newspaper is many things - one of those being a history book.
Saturday morning, after Marshall Academy had clinched a berth in the state championship game, I dug out some of the old bound copies in our office.
That’s because Friday night after the game one of my questions to some long-time MA supporters, “When was the last time the Patriots played for a state title in football?”
I got a couple of guesses. Both were close.
I found the answer in the November 24, 1988, edition of The South Reporter. Come to find out, it was the only time Marshall has ever been to the state championship game. The school was started in the late ‘60s.
The Patriots lost 28-7 to Wilkinson Christian in the big game played in Jackson in 1988.
It was their only loss of the season. They finished 11-1. They won the conference crown and the North AA championship and finished second in the state.
The story about the game was headlined, “MA Patriots end spectacular season.” It was written by John Booth Farese.
Here’s a summary, which will provide familiar names to all of you long-time Marshall fans.
The Patriots’ only score came on a touchdown pass from John McClatchy to Christopher Cupp in the fourth quarter. Cupp also kicked the extra point.
Seniors on the team were Jay Hurdle, Don Worsham, Reggie Walker, Burke Hendrix, Bubba Tice, Clay Crawford, McClatchy, John Farese and Keith Valentine.
“They played their last game for Marshall with all the intensity and hustle you could expect from this talented group,” the story read.
Those listed as returning the next year, after having contributed greatly to the Patriots’ success, included Cupp, Shane Stone, Cameron Fennell, Neil Martin, Mark Witt and Walter Bain.
Marshall missed the play of Bill Spencer and Ricky Novarese, the story stated. And eighth graders Jeff Bryant, Bo Bear and Gregory Elliott may have become the first players in history their age to compete in a state championship game.
Worsham, Crawford, Farese and McClatchy were selected all-state.
The story outlined some reason for the team’s success.
It credited the leadership of McClatchy, the game-breaking plays of Stone and Cupp, the receptions and big hits delivered by Farese and Valentine’s electrifying runs. Great defensive play came from Hendrix, Crawford, Worsham and Bill Spencer. It credited the steady, errorless play of Tice, Fennell and Walker, plus Bain’s big defensive plays.
Coaches were Anderson and Sudduth.
Crawford and Hendrix represented the team as captains for the state championship game.
Nineteen years later another Marshall Academy team is headed to Jackson, or more specifically Clinton, not far from the capital city.
We’re hoping for a win, which would be the school’s first state gold in football, but win or lose, this edition of the Patriots is no doubt just as special as the one back in 1988.
I’ve been on the sideline for 12 of MA’s 13 games. And I’ve covered high school football for almost 30 years. I’ve never had more fun.
This team has grit. This team exemplifies a team. This team is special.
The Patriots will no doubt be the underdogs heading into this Friday night’s big game. But, that’s OK, they really have not gotten much attention statewide all season.
The game will be decided on the field, and this team is playing with lots of confidence.
“The kids are really believing,” Wicker told me after the November 16 playoff win over Kirk. “They can see our successes.”
Most of all, Patriots, seize the moment. Not too many athletes have the opportunity to play for a state title. You’re making memories that will last a lifetime.
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