By Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star
The Marshall High School Buffalos have been selected as the Fort Bend Star Athletic Program of the Year winners.
During the 2016-2017 school year, the Buffalos’ football team made it to the 5A quarterfinals, the basketball team finished second in the 5A state tournament, and the track team just came up short in an attempt to win their third state championship.
During preseason football drills last August, Head Coach James Williams was asked if he had a quarterback.
“I think I do, but I’m not sure yet,” Williams said. It only took Jabari James about three games to get the feel of the quarterback position. In their first district game against Galena Park, James was 9-13 passing and threw four touchdown passes, and he rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns. As teams began focusing on the passing game, offensive linemen Barton Clement and Bryant Newson began opening holes for the running game, and running backs Antonio Brooks, Kory King and Jerry Davis began to have big games.
Mid-season losses to Manvel and Elkins temporarily slowed the Buffalos, but they rebounded to tie for second in District 23-5A with a 5-2 district record and an 8-2 overall record.
In the first round of the playoffs, Marshall beat Houston Sterling 58-12, and then beat Crosby 42-21. In the third round, the Buffalos beat A&M Consolidated 28-21 in a hard-fought battle at NRG Stadium.
The following week in a quarterfinal game with College Station, Marshall lost 31-27, ending their season at 11-3.
After the season, Marshall placed 11 players on the All-District First Team: Quarterback Jabari James, running back Jerry Davis, center Bryant Newson, Jr., offensive lineman Barton Clement, wide receiver Henry Thomas, defensive end Shaakir Smith, defensive tackle Arris Johnson, linebackers Adrion Robertson and Lawrence Serious, cornerback Braxton Brantley, and safety Jarius Taylor.
“The success of last year’s team has had a big impact on our program. We work very hard and have goals that we want to achieve and last year, we came very close to our ultimate goal. We have made the state quarterfinals twice in the last five years. That is a testament to the kids, coaches and the culture we have created here,” Williams said. “The school was buzzing this past football season. I loved the support from the top down, from the administrators, teachers and the student body. They were all behind us.”
The basketball team, led by Coach Gary Nichols, used their aggressive defense to earn a spot in the 5A state championship game against Mansfield Timberview last March. Throughout the playoffs, the Buffalos used their defense to trigger scoring runs. In the championship game, they came up one scoring run short, as Mansfield Timberview won 74-66 at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.
After the championship game, Nichols said, “I am just so elated about this group, especially the seniors. We fought through adversity all year long. They are champions. They learned a lesson that sometimes you play as hard as you can and still not win. That’s the way life is. As long as you play your best, you are a champion.”
The Buffalos beat Manvel in the Region 3 championship game 82-57, and beat Northwest 82-59 in the state semifinals. Marshall ended its season with a 32-8 record.
Three Marshall players, John Walker, Jabari Rice, and Taz Sherman, were voted to the District 23-5A all-district first team.
Coach Lloyd Banks expects, and gets, the best from his track team. The Marshall boys track team finished second in the state championship in 2013 and 2014, and won the state championship in 2015 and 2016. Banks stresses his concept of Go Time.
“Go Time is when the spotlight is on you and it’s time for you to perform,” Banks said. “Go Time can be at the state championship, at a weekly meet, at practice or even in the class room when you are taking a test. It is your time to perform to the best of your ability.”
The Buffalos attempt for a three-peat came up short as they finished in 14th place in the class 5A competition. Shamon Ehiemua, the defending 200-meter champion, finished fourth in the 200-meters this year, while Tyrelle Valentine finished sixth in the 400-meters. The Marshall’s boys’ 4-by-400-meter relay team finished fifth with a time of 3:15.96.
The Marshall girls finished in ninth place in class 5A. Payton Wells finished third in the 400-meters with a time of 56.52. The 4-by-200-meter relay team finished fifth with a time of 1:41.26 and the 4-by-400-meter relay team also finished fifth with a time of 3:52.20.
Coach Williams believes success in the other sports improves his football program.
“The basketball and track teams’ success has had a great impact on the football program. Number 1, we are a family. We root for every program, every sport and every student-athlete to be successful. A lot of track and basketball athletes also play football. We want our athletes to play multiple sports,” Williams said. “Overall, this was an incredible year for Marshall. I really enjoyed seeing so many of our student-athletes have success at such a high level.”
Coach Nichols believes that winning breeds winning.
“When you have a group of students that are unified as a school and not just focused on their individual sport, more times than not that equals success,” Nichols said. “The football team’s success gave our program great incentive. Our players wanted to do as well or better than their friends who were in other sports. We have had a competitive program since the opening of the school and we always talk about being the group to set the bar as high as possible so that the next class will have to meet or exceed what was accomplished.”
Coach Williams, in addition to coaching football, is the Marshall athletic coordinator and oversees all of the Marshall sports.
“The success our teams had last year was positive for the teams and the school. And our hope is the best is yet to come. Sometimes there is a negative label out there about these kids and our school, but I can honestly tell you, that is the furthest from the truth,” Williams said. “We have incredible kids here and they deserve the best! We try very hard to spread the great news of Marshall High School athletics.”