MODESTO – Gregori High’s Michael Marsden is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. The roster numbers seem generous.
But with the ball in his hands, the shifty senior almost grows on the field, such is his impact. He displays all the attributes of successful running backs and, by the way, he hardly acknowledges fatigue.
“I’m a little bit (tired),” he admitted.
Marsden carried 34 times for 229 yards and four touchdowns to lead Gregori over Enochs 38-24 Friday night. Truth be told, he looked like he could have taken 20 more handoffs. He darts, spins, keeps his legs moving and maximizes each run.
“I put in the work all week in practice,” he said. “It pays off.”
His work extends far beyond weekly practice. Marsden is about football for 12 months. It’s not a coincidence he’s one of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s busiest running backs, and he raced past the 1,100-yard mark on homecoming night.
“He (Marsden) is a weightroom warrior,” Gregori coach Lamar Wallace praised. “The more you feed him the ball, the tougher a runner he becomes.”
Marsden heard a sweet message at halftime from Wallace. The coach told the Jaguars (5-2, 1-1 Central California Athletic Conference) that they would focus on the run in the second half. Marsden couldn’t wait.
He was limited to only 81 rushing yards during last week’s loss to Turlock. He more than made up the difference and – helped by powerful center Ethan Lowell and guards Arturo Rios and Xzavier Ahumada – crashed home for three of his four touchdowns after halftime.
Marsden’s performance was pivotal because Enochs (3-4, 1-1 CCAL) scrapped from a 17-0 to deficit to tie 17-17 early in the third quarter on Ansel Mello's short field goal. The Eagles’ comeback, helped along by an interception and a recovered kickoff fumble, was engineered by elusive junior quarterback Johnny Staggs.
Staggs, appearing in only his third varsity game after becoming eligible following his transfer, bought time with his legs to deliver 345 passing yards (16 of 31 completions) and two touchdowns. With him and running back Aiden Muhammad, Enochs can be a handful on offense.
“We executed for about three quarters tonight,” Enochs coach Tracey Traub said.
The Eagles’ problem, however, was Marsden and quarterback Conner Bailey. Gregori answered Enochs’ rally with touchdowns on three straight possessions, each one capped by Marsden.
Gregori also rallied around Ahumada, whose father Ricardo – who died of cancer at age 42 – was buried on Thursday. He coached many of the Jaguars in youth football, hence the large turnout of players for the services. Ahumada carried his grief admirably and was a game-long force.
The Jaguars’ win kept them in CCAL contention with defending champion Downey awaiting Oct. 27 in the regular-season finale. To get there, Gregori must beat Modesto and Pitman the next two weeks.
“We can’t afford any letdowns,” Wallace said.
Enochs 0-14-3-7– 24
G—Michael Marsden 8 run (Jace Guzman kick)
G—Trey Webb 70 pass from Conner Bailey (Guzman kick)
G—FG Guzman 33
E—Logan Edwards 13 pass from Johnny Staggs (Ansel Mello kick)
E—Aiden Muhammad 1 run (Mello kick)
E—FG Mello 26
G—Marsden 1 run (Guzman kick)
G—Marsden 3 run (Guzman kick)
E—Kaedon Kopp 28 pass from Staggs (Mello kick)
G—Marsden 10 run (Guzman kick)
Records—Enochs 3-4, 1-1 CCAL; Gregori 5-2, 1-1 CCAL