Best team in Ohio that won’t make the playoffs? Might be Thurgood Marshall


Thurgood Marshall’s football team is averaging 553 yards rushing per game. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

Seven months ago, Dayton Thurgood Marshall earned a surprising berth in the Division II boys basketball state championship
game. The football team would like a shot at doing the same in D-IV. Who’s the best football team in Ohio that won’t get into the
playoffs? Marshall is hoping it’s not them. But it very well could be. Did we mention the Cougars average 553 yards per game on the ground?

Seven months ago, Dayton Thurgood Marshall came out of nowhere to earn a berth in the Division II boys basketball state championship game. The football team would like a shot at doing the same in D-IV.

Who’s the best football team in Ohio that won’t get into the playoffs? Marshall is hoping it’s not them. But it very well could be.

Despite being undefeated on the field, the Cougars record stands at 6-3. They were forced to forfeit their first three games due to playing an ineligible player. The gaffe – turned in by Marshall and Dayton Public Schools administrators – stings in many ways.

For one, Marshall didn’t need the player in question to win.

Does anyone doubt a team that is averaging 57 points per game in the six games since the forfeitures would not have won the first three games regardless? And those three victories that are now “1-0” losses – convincing decisions over Greenon (44-13), Chaminade Julienne (20-7) and Dayton Jefferson Township (62-14) – were never in doubt.

The ineligible player saw minimal action at the end of blowouts.

“I was a little crushed and I still am,” Thurgood Marshall head coach Earl White said. “But its something that’s a part of life and it’s something we cannot reverse. We just have to deal with it.”

Said senior running back Brandon Walker: “When coach told me (about the forfeits) my heart dropped to the floor.”

Secondly, as a result of the forfeits, Marshall might miss out on the playoffs – and that would be a shame. This Marshall team is special. And unstoppable – on the field.

Friday the Cougars captured the Dayton City League title with a 42-14 win over rival Dayton Dunbar at Welcome Stadium.

The way they did it was running the ball. It’s their specialty and served during all four courses – or rather quarters.

No team in Ohio runs the ball as effectively as Thurgood Marshall.

The Cougars, who utilize a double wing formation and scheme, are averaging 553 yards per game on the ground.  Friday they racked up 476 yards against Dunbar to up their season total to 4,980.

“I picked it up online,” White said of the funky formation. “We were in the wishbone for years and we were having problems getting the ball to the perimeter so we started researching some jet sweep stuff and ran across the double wing. We put a package in with it about four years ago, and we noticed that whenever we ran it nobody could stop it. So I just said we were going to make it what we do. And I like it because it’s odd and nobody else does it.”

Senior Tavion Wright leads a bountiful backfield with 1,960 yards and 29 TDs on just 110 carries. Wright averages 17.8 yards per carry.

Fellow seniors Dionte Oliver and Walker are also 1,000-yard backs.

Oliver has 1,243 yards and 18 TDs on 92 carries and averages 13 yards per touch. Walker, who went over 1,000 yards with 157 and four TDs on 17 carries against Dunbar, has 1,011 yards and 16 TDs on 92 carries. He averages 11 yards per carry.

Wright led the attack in the win over the Wolverines with 186 yards and two TDs on 17 carries, while Oliver chipped in 120 yards on 15 carries.

Junior Quincy Surles – held out of Friday’s game – has 754 yards and seven TDs on 68 carries this year as well. He averages 11.7 yards per tote.

Marshall’s weapons operate behind an offensive line that goes 5-9/240, 5-10/265, 6-4/345, 5-10/250, 5-10/255. The tight ends are 6-5/220 and 6-2/235.

The offense is dominant.

“I think we’ve got the best line in the area,” Walker said. “They are strong and big. When you tell them to do a job they get right to it.”

Said Wright: “We have a massive offensive line and three of the best backs in the state.”

Finally, and stated with confidence – Marshall is one of the Dayton City League’s best teams ever.

In its rich history, the DCL has produced individuals like Keith Byars and Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. Team-wise the Dayton City League doesn’t have a lengthy postseason resume with just three teams – Dayton Roth (now defunct), Dunbar and Colonel White (now Marshall) – having earned playoff bids.

This could have been Marshall’s second trip in four years – and hopefully still will be.

In 2006, as then-Colonel White, the Cougars averaged 48 points per game and used a 9-1 regular season to propel themselves into the D-II playoffs for the first time ever. As a No. 7 seed, they lost in the first round at Harrison.

Most people think Marshall has a good chance of winning a potential first round game this year – no matter who they face.

Should Marshall get into the playoffs, it would most likely face either Clinton-Massie or Kettering Alter in the first round.

Either match up is intriguing, but a Marshall-Alter meeting is very enticing.

“If we have to play Alter that’s fine,” Walker said. “We’d like to play them first round, first game. A lot of people doubt us and think we can’t beat Alter because we’re just a Dayton Public School. I think every school is the same. It’s all about what you do on the field. If you get too many penalties – you’re going to lose. If you turn the ball over too many times – you’re going to lose. I really want to play Alter in the first round.”

Ironically last year Marshall was a D-II school in Region 8, but due to shifts in enrollment and the opening of a new high school (Ponitz Tech), the Cougars dropped all the way down to D-IV, Region 16. Should be easier for them to make the playoffs, right? Wrong.

If they were still in Region 8, the Cougars 13.9546 computer points would put them No. 7 in the rankings. In Region 16 they are No. 9. Go figure.

Winless Ponitz – Week 10’s opponent – doesn’t help much either.

The wait will be agonizing.

“It’s going to be crazy,” Oliver said. “We need a couple teams to lose. We have to beat Ponitz and just pray for people to lose.”

“It’s going to be nerve-wrecking,” Walker added. “It’s going to be very nerve-wrecking to wait and see if we make the playoffs. I think we belong in there. It was a mistake. No one is getting blamed, and I don’t think we should be penalized by missing the playoffs because of a mistake. I think we should be able to go and do what we do.”

Said White: “You just have to wait and see, but this team hasn’t lost on the field. I think if this team doesn’t get to participate in the playoffs to see what they can do it will be a travesty. But that’s the reality of what we’re dealing with.

“We’ve got a special group here.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *