So far, the Marietta High football team is enjoying a productive preseason on the gridiron.
Before kicking off the 2011 campaign in a non-league game versus visiting Morgan High at Don Drumm Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 26, the Tigers are scheduled to play their the third and final scrimmmage against John Marshall at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Glen Dale (near Moundsville, W.Va).
The Monarchs, 2-8 in 2010, are coached by Dan Wilson and quarterbacked by senior Aaron Fonner who had 2,418 total yards, 23 total touchdowns last season. Capping last year, he helped engineer John Marshall's upset of Parkersburg South.
Fonner is also one of JM's leaders on defense with 68 tackles, seven sacks, and an interception in 2010.
"This is a large (Class) AAA high school, and they are consistent performers," said Marietta first-year head football coach Bob Springer. "The Tigers will have their hands full on Friday."
Already, though, Marietta has outplayed two good opponents, Athens and Ripley (W.Va.), in practice games.
Against the Bulldogs in a season-opening scrimmage at Don Drumm on the morning of Aug. 10, 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior tailback Dedder Baker scored on two long touchdown runs, and Justin Futrell passed for another TD to Mitchel Gearhart to spark the Tigers' offense.
Defensively, Marietta played like it was a first scrimmage but did not allow the Athens varsity to reach paydirt.
"We must pick up the tempo and fly to the ball," said Springer of the orange and black defense.
Well, at Ripley on Saturday, Aug. 13, Marietta did just that and in the process impressed the coaching staff.
"The greatest improvement took place with our defense, which took major strides compared to the Athens scrimmage," Springer said. "Coach (Adam) Eichhorn and Coach (Lucas) Stanton have been installing their version of the 4-4, and it was exciting to see the defense coming along so fast.
"Neither coach was totally pleased, but improvement is improvement.
"It was obvious that the 'D' was making better reads and moving to the ball with force. There's still room for improvement."
Springer and his staff singled out several defensive players for praise against Ripley. They were Matt Thompson, who had a pick; Tanner Leach (linebacker) , Will Cogswell (line), Nick Spurr (corner), Austin Gaskins (inside linebacker), and Baker (free safety).
Offensively, Marietta pretty much had its way with Ripley as Baker and Gearhart each scored two touchdowns. Futrell threw for one TD pass to Gearhart.
"It was a day to hone our running game," Springer said. "Futrell's leadership and calmness was excellent."
Springer was also impressed with the MHS offensive line, especially with the blocking of 6-1, 235-pound sophomore Jon Hedrick and 5-11, 290-pound junior Eddie Kimbrough.
"The offensive line is beginning to take form," the Marietta head coach said. "Yet, the battle for a starting position will go into next week."
Springer said that everybody played against Ripley, which was playing its first practice game of the season.