, Port Arthur, Texas

November 25, 2011

Marks crucial to Memorial run defense

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Senior Ryan Marks isn’t flashy when he plays on the field for the Port Arthur Memorial Titans.

  Then again, there are few defensive tackles who manage to be flashy at that position. Still, Marks has been key to the Titans’ run defense that was the best in District 21-5A.

  Not bad for a guy who started 13 games on offense last season.

  “Our run defense has been very good,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “Ryan has been an important part of that. He’s keeping guys off our linebackers and done a good job executing the assignments we ask him to do.”

  Marks has had big games this season, totaling seven tackles against Baytown Sterling. However, most of his contributions on defense are about making sure blockers stay off the linebackers. That means every time one of them makes a tackle, Marks can take a little credit for it.

  “We have really come together as a family,” Marks said. “We were brought up since we were small playing Pop Warner together. We finally formed as one this year, instead of most years when we were divided. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy. When one of us makes a tackle, we all make a tackle. Whenever I’m not involved, even rushing the quarterback so the safety can get a pick, I’m doing my assignment and doing my job.”

  Marks started at center and guard last season for the Titans before moving over to offense. That flexibility came in handy last week against Clear Springs when starting right tackle Jonathan Ned was forced out of the lineup with an injury.

  Without losing a beat, Marks flipped over to guard, started the game and helped the Memorial offense gain over 450 yards on the ground.

  “We have a comfort zone with him on both sides of the ball now,” Harrison said. “We can flip flop him on either side for depth, which is very important the deeper we go into the playoffs. Having that flexibility gives us a lot of options, especially when we have a situation like we did last week.”

  Even though playing on each side of the line can take a certain mentality to pull off, Marks doesn’t mind playing either side of the ball.

  “I’m just doing what I can do to help the team out,” Marks  said. “It’s really just learning everything. I played (defense) before, but there was some new stuff to pick up, but it was pretty easy. They’re both the same. It really doesn’t matter to me. As long as we win the game, I don’t care where I play.”

  One advantage to that versatility is it took him less time to pick up how to play effectively at defensive tackle, simply because he could draw on his own experiences at guard and center. If there was a certain area Marks struggled against last season, he could use that to his advantage on the defensive side.

  “Playing last year for us on the line helped with the transition,” Harrison said. “He’s picked up on some things, what guys did to him last year and where his weaknesses were. He’s turned those around and is using them to his advantage.”

  Like most of this team, Marks hasn’t let the success of this season go to his head. He’s focused on one goal and one goal alone at this point: a state championship.

  “We plan on winning a state championship,” Marks said. “Since the beginning of January, we’ve been working towards that. That’s why we are where we’re at now. That’s why we only have one loss, and we should have won that one. This game will be a different week.”

  TITAN TIDBITS: The son of Namon and Carol Marks, Ryan plans on majoring in Chemical Engineering in college. He hasn’t decided where he’d like to go yet and is leaving his possibilities open until the spring. … Memorial practiced for the second straight year during Thanksgiving, making the regionals for the third time in school history and for the first time in back-to-back seasons. … The Titans also have set a record for most victories in a season with 11. … This week’s matchup with Houston Memorial may be familiar, since it was the same Houston school which knocked the Titans out of the playoffs last season. However, Harrison is making sure the opponent is where the similarities end. Last season, the Titans played at Galena Park ISD Stadium, wore white jerseys and were the visiting team. This season, they’ll play at Humble’s Turner Stadium, wear black tops and are the home team. … Nathan Holmes continues to practice with the team, having played sparingly against Clear Springs. Holmes, Kenneth Mayfield and Darius Lemora rotated through the running back position during practice Wednesday and all three could see playing time against Houston Memorial. … Quarterback Terrence Singleton now has 1,226 rushing yards this season and 2,316 passing yards. He’s also rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games. As a team, the Titans have rushed for 1,141 yards in the last three games, topping 400 yards rushing in each of Memorial’s two playoff victories.