Williams, Marbley, Ford each earn All-State spot
Published 11:45 pm Friday, January 3, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE – East St. John, Destrehan and Hahnville have long battled one another as district rivals. This year was no different — and for three winning teams that each earned at least one playoff victory in 2013, players earned recognition by the Louisiana Sports Writers’ All-State team.
East St. John defensive end Darren Williams, Destrehan linebacker Rae’Juan Marbley and Hahnville kicker/punter Craig Ford each earned honors as Class 5A first teamers after logging tremendous individual seasons.
Destrehan’s Donovan Isom, Alfred Smith and Will Mathews each earned honorable mention. Ditto for East St. John’s Amani Martin, Xavier Lewis and Nigel Anderson.
Williams was a huge part of a fearsome, unforgiving defensive front four at East St. John. He logged 18 sacks this season in 12 games for a defense that helped lift the Wildcats to their first home playoff victory since 2006. In that game, the stop unit had its finest hour, holding St. Amant to just seven points in a defensive struggle.
The 6-foot-4, 240 pound end also made 72 total tackles, including 30 for loss. He is committed to Tulane.
“His play speaks for itself,” said East St. John coach Phillip Banko. “18 sacks, not many people do that at the high school level. He’s gonna make someone really happy and it looks like it’ll be Tulane. He’s just a great player who we’re gonna miss.”
Williams is also drawing interest from UCLA and Kansas State, among others.
“He has an explosive first step and he’s great as far as using his hands,” said Banko. “Coach (Greg) Gathers has done a great job with him … Before the All-Star game ended, they couldn’t block him. He’s well worth the pick for All-State. I’d have been upset if he hadn’t made it.”
Another Tulane commitment, Destrehan’s Rae’Juan Marbley, was a tackling machine this season, tallying 120 stops, 16 for loss.
He was an integral part of a defense that held 11 teams to 17 points or less, six of those under 10.
“He’s a real athletic, hard-nosed football player,” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux. “He’s gonna really help Tulane. He was our leader on defense, and a vocal leader at that. He’s a tremendous athlete who does everything right.”
This was Marbley’s first full season as an inside linebacker after playing on the outside in years past.
He saved his biggest plays for the biggest games: a strip, fumble recovery and return helped DHS pull away from East St. John in a Week 10 District 7-5A showdown; his pick-six interception return helped the Wildcats best archrival Hahnville.
“Good players make big plays in big games and he did that throughout his career,” said Robicheaux. “He’s a really instinctive player who’s always around the ball. When you’re always around the ball, good things happen.”
Ford was tasked with punting duties for the first time this season, after being a dominant place-kicker and kickoff specialist with the Tigers as a junior. He was a quick study, earning the All-State nod as the state’s top punter.
Ford boomed his kicks, finishing the season with an average of 39.7 yards a punt and downing eight kicks inside the 20 yard-line. Ford was perfect on PAT’s this season. But his greatest value may have been on kickoffs, where he took opposing returnmen out of games by registering touchback after touchback
“He was our best defensive weapon,” said Hahnville coach Lou Valdin. “Almost every kick, he put into the endzone. By the end of the year, they were pretty much all in the endzone.”
Valdin said that Ford had never been asked to punt before because Hahnville had the position covered, but that the senior made his season at the position count.
“He got tremendous hang time on his kicks,” said Valdin.
“I don’t know that we gave up any return yards late in the year. He became a tremendous punter.”