Healthy Jackson helps put Havre de Grace on winning track Warriors remain in playoff hunt

November 03, 1992|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

Before the football season started, Havre de Grace coach Tom Marron was not exactly sure what to expect of his team. At the time, he called it an "iffy" situation, one that could go up or down.

The Warriors (5-4, 4-3) are down after losing to Fallston on Friday night, 42-0. The setback halted a two-game winning streak and put a crimp in their Class 1A playoff hopes. With the top eight ranked teams (on a point system) advancing to the state tournament, it is possible a win at home against Aberdeen on Thursday night might not be enough to push Havre de Grace into the postseason.

Regardless of what happens, the team has enjoyed a solid season, largely because senior running back/linebacker Marvin Jackson has been able to stay healthy.

A year ago, he broke his collarbone during a practice session in the fourth week of the season and did not return. It was not exactly coincidence the team wound up with a losing record.

Before the Fallston game, Jackson, a 6-foot, 185-pound speedster with strength, was second in the county in rushing (882 yards, 7.3 average), second in scoring (68 points) and sixth in total tackles (101) from his linebacker spot. Recently, he expressed no preference between offense and defense: "I like them both. I take punishment as a running back, so I like to deliver it on defense."

Havre de Grace has been at both ends of the spectrum this season, being involved in two major upsets. First, it was a 14-0 loss to Bel Air, as the Bobcats ended a 19-game losing streak; later it was a 36-12 rout of previously unbeaten Joppatowne.

"Bel Air was our homecoming, and the players had a lot of enthusiasm at the pep rally, but they must have left it there, because they walked through pre-game drills, and never got going," Marron said. "We had tried to tell them it would be a tough game, and it turned out to be.

"Before the Joppatowne game, we decided we had not given the team enough scrimmage work. The kids like to scrimmage -- they get competitive when it's for a starting spot."

Jackson said: "We'd had trouble tackling in earlier games, but the scrimmaging helped. We knew if we didn't work hard, we wouldn't start."

Jackson is no stranger to hard work. Once his collarbone healed, he and some of his teammates went on a program of running and weight training.

"It definitely helped me, because I improved my speed," said Jackson, fast enough to have had success as a sprinter in the state outdoor track championships.

Of a 22-6 fourth-quarter scoring margin against Joppatowne, he added: "I think we play better as the underdog. You keep hitting hard [on defense] and after a while running backs don't want to run any more."

One key to the season has been the result of a change in coaching philosophy. "We used to put our starting backs in the secondary, hoping they wouldn't get hurt. Now, all our running backs are linebackers and it has really improved us defensively," Marron said.

Another strong point in the Warriors' favor is their attitude. Marron said: "Last year's team had a lot of ability but not the enthusiasm and spirit of this group. The team has a good personality, good work habits and this has been a tremendous factor."

Or, as Jackson put it: "We're working hard. That's why we like the fourth quarter. We're not tired and the other team is."

The absence of two players also had made this team "iffy" before school started, but when Curtis Carter and Walter Jones showed up, it took care of some line woes. Carter weighs 305 pounds and Jones "more," Marron said. "Curtis does a

lot of things for us, and he won't be intimidated."

Jackson benefits from Curtis' presence, running behind him on offense and playing right behind him on defense. "Opposing teams try to double-team him and they leave me free," he said.

The team's top offensive and defensive threat is joined in the backfield by junior quarterback Jason Fox, Mark Grimsley and Mike Gibson. Fox and his identical twin brother, Jeff, form a good passing combination, as Jason has thrown for a county-high 488 yards and three touchdowns, and Jeff has nine receptions for 259 yards (a county-high 28.8 average) and two of the touchdowns.

Although Havre de Grace has an outstanding band -- some 125 members -- it suffers during the football season because of the absence of several members who are on the team, including Jackson.

Where he has been considered a late bloomer -- one with outstanding potential -- in football, he already has made all-state in band, playing the euphonium -- a brass wind instrument similar to the tuba but having a somewhat higher pitch and a mellower sound.

There are the academics, too, something that has taken on added significance for Jackson as his football talents have improved.

"I'm taking more courses that will help me get into college. It's hard. There's a lot of math, but I'm doing OK," he said.

"Gibson, he's made honor roll every time, and I study with him a lot. Or I'll go over to Curtis' house, and his father will make us get out the books."

This desire to do well and to have his teammates do well is reflected in his answer when asked to recall one of his big touchdowns or a top defensive play.

"No, I have more fun throwing a block for one of my teammates than scoring myself. I like to see them score," he said.

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