The two-point conversion. Hocus Pocus. Welcome Stadium. The Dayton City
League vs The Greater Catholic League. And a program’s first playoff
win…Marshall vs Alter had it all.
Video by Alex Sator
Thurgood Marshall wages feel good upset for the ages over Kettering Alter
By Tim Langevin
This highly anticipated and long awaited showdown was literally, one for the ages. Thurgood Marshall, a team with the weight
of a school district on its shoulders, stunned Archbishop Kettering
Alter 35-27 in an epic, see-saw thriller at Welcome Stadium Friday night
before a high-voltage crowd.
It was the first playoff win in school history for Marshall and the
first playoff win for a Dayton Public School since 1986. That’s a
A humble man fighting back tears, Marshall head coach Earl White
said, “I’m proud of this team. But it’s not about Thurgood Marshall.
This win is about the Dayton Public Schools.”
This one was hyped as the “game everybody wanted to see” two years
ago. And while the moniker still remained Friday night, it also served
notice as a tongue-in-cheek homage to “competitive balance”.
The Cougars “Double Wing-Double Tight” offense, about as obsolete as
leather helmets, perfected the art of illusion for 307 yards on the
ground. And senior WB Tavonn Crisp yodeled “Hocus Pocus” to the tune of
168 yards and four TDs.
“This is the biggest win in school history,” said Crisp. “I moved
back from Indiana two years ago and there you automatically make the
playoffs. Here, we had to earn it. Very exciting.”
The other WB, Denzel Norvell, gashed the defense for 112 yards,
including a “now you see me, now you don’t” 34-yard TD scamper. Both
diminutive backs ran downhill all night behind a mammoth offensive line.
The two anchors were a pair of tight ends – 6′ 6″, 250-pound Gary
Green and 6′ 4″, 215-pound Michael Cartwright. A junior, Green has
received offers from Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and UCLA.
Norvell has 1,462 yards and 21 TDs this season.
Green had a different take on the win, “Everybody doubted us,
disrespected us. Their fans did stuff to our school. So we went out and
took our respect. We proved it to everybody…We have the best offense in
the state. In my mind, we are going to state and get that ring, baby.”
Confusing for the Alter defense? It was more confusing for fans, photographers, reporters, and TV personnel. One play
punked out the entire stadium. QB JaMahl Manley handed off to Norvell
who handed off to Crisp for a 19-yard TD run to give the Cougars a 20-10
lead late in the second quarter. It all went down in a nano-second in a
crowded, tight space. That was hocus pocus.
Crisp said, “This offense requires a lot of practice and a lot of
concentration. We started practice for this game Sunday at Welcome
Stadium. It lasted three hours.”
Marshall scored on its opening drive with a 70-yard statement. Crisp
covered 46 yards, including a 34-yard TD run and Norvell accounted for
24 yards. The PAT was no good, but the Cougars led 6-0 with 8:26 left in
“I told him (Crisp) that we needed him to step up tonight,” White
said. “Big-time players step up for big-time games. Sometimes it’s not
about X’s and O’s. It’s inside that goes.”
Alter responded with a 14-play, 67-yard march, but stalled on the
Cougars 10-yard-line and Andrew DiMario kicked a 27-yard field goal to
make it 6-3 with 3:30 remaining.
On the ensuing squib kick, Marshall fumbled and Alter recovered it on
the Cougars 36-yard-line. Senior RB Joe Penno punched it in from
six-yards out and Alter led 10-6 with 10:41 left until half.
Marshall reclaimed the lead 13-10 on Norvell’s 34-yard scamper and
then expanded the lead on Crisp’s 19-yard TD run. Alter cut the gap
20-13 before half with a DiMario 25-yard field goal.
QB sensation Malik Zaire, who received an offer from Ohio State a
couple of weeks ago, found his stride in the second half with a 26-yard
TD run to knot the score 20-20 with 8:59 left in the third quarter. The
Knights marched 61 yards without Penno, who injured his ankle in the
second quarter, leaving the onus on Zaire.
The lanky lefty doesn’t stuff the stat sheets, but his field presence
and athleticism makes him a dangerous threat. Zaire concluded his
junior season with over 700 yards passing and 900 yards rushing and 20
Alter tacked on another score to reclaim the lead again, 27-20 with
8:56 left in the game. Tyler Hohl capped a 54-yard drive with a
one-yard TD plunge. The Cougar crowd was deflated.
With their backs to the wall and the weight of an entire school
district on their shoulders, Thurgood Marshall would not “go gentle into
that good night”. The unsung hero, freshman QB JaMahl
Manley orchestrated a time-consuming 70-yard drive with deceptive
precision. Crisp punctuated it with an 11-yard TD run on a Jet Sweep
with 3:33 left in the game. That was hocus pocus.
Crisp has 1,733 yards rushing and 32 TDs on the season. He is still hoping for a D-I college
offer. He runs a 4.40 40-dash and can squat 500 pounds. “They always
say you are too small. You can’t do it,” Crisp said. “ I’m happy with my
size. My dream is to play at the next level. Just have to wait and see and follow my dreams.”
Decision time. Kick the PAT or go for the win? It was a Meatloaf
moment, “What’s it gonna be boy, yes or no…I need to know right now.”
Trailing 27-26, coach White and his offense didn’t have to “sleep on it”
because the Cougars were going for it.
With their backs to the wall and the weight of an entire school
district on their shoulders, Crisp took the hand-off and jetted the left
sideline to pay-dirt. Game. Set. Match.
White said, “I told the kids during the time-out that if they stop
us, they win. If they don’t stop us, we win. Win or lose, I love you.
Whatever happens, it’s going to happen together.”
Don’t think the Thurgood Marshall football program was built in one season. Coach Earl White paid his dues and did his homework. He reached out to successful programs like Alter and their head coach Ed Domsitz. In his 11th season, White has this program heading in the right direction. Since 2009, the Purple and Vegas Gold are 25-6 and in the second round of the playoffs. The Central State University graduate has compiled a 62-42 overall record.
White said, “We patterned my first five years of coaching after
Alter. Coach Domsitz told me to find players with character. Build your program around character.”
The defense stuffed Zaire for no gain on a fourth and two with 2:08
left and took over on downs on Alter’s 43-yard-line. To add insult to injury, three plays later, Crisp bolted on a 31-yard TD run to pad the score. That was hocus pocus.
White said, “I didn’t want Crisp to score. It was a great run, but I wished he would’ve gone down so as to run the clock out.”
Marshall, winners of 10 straight games, look to slay 11-0 Springfield
Shawnee, a 64-8 victor over Cincinnati Taft. The game will be played
Friday at Fairmont High School at 7:30 PM.
White concluded, “This was big. I’m just happy to win a playoff game, especially against a great program like Alter. Everything else that happens from here, is a cherry on top.”
Marshall defensive coach T. Thornton said, “Where is all the love? I have two defensive players deserving of a D-I college offer – senior DB Kerale Range and senior LB Darione McClesky.”
McClesky recorded six tackles and one sack with a fumble recovery.
Alter concludes another brilliant season 10-1.
And so, round one of the playoffs, in the books. The sink or swim
saga continues this weekend. Be sure to catch the wave on the MVPhd Game
of the Week.