Marshall is hoping to start new era under young coach 

click to enlarge New direction: With 23-year-old Nicholas Wilson taking over as the coach at Marshall, the Phoenix are optimistic they can turn around the recent football failures. - DEVIN CHEN/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Devin Chen/special to the s.f. examiner
  • New direction: With 23-year-old Nicholas Wilson taking over as the coach at Marshall, the Phoenix are optimistic they can turn around the recent football failures.

There’s a line that some around The City say with a snicker about the Thurgood Marshall High School athletic programs.

There’s more untapped talent walking around the hallways at Marshall than on the field — at any school in San Francisco.

Whether that’s true is almost impossible to determine, but it speaks to the problem at the school in the southeast corner of The City, or at the very least the perceived problem.

Eligibility issues, stunningly poor management, low enrollment and a bevy of other issues have plagued many of Marshall’s athletic programs in the past and the football program has been one of the casualties.

The Phoenix have a 5-48 record in Academic Athletic Association play since 2002 and have won just one nonleague game. That record includes a stretch of 24 straight losses from 2004-2010 (Marshall also failed to field a football team in 2007 and 2008). The last two years, in which Marshall has won three games combined, have been the most successful back-to-back seasons in the school’s history.

But that’s not how new coach Nicholas Wilson defines success.

“There were a lot of coaches here in the past that didn’t understand what it took to run a winning football program, and those guys are gone,” Wilson said. “I don’t want them here.”

Wilson is a 23-year-old former quarterback, who won a Central Coast Section title at Half Moon Bay in 2005 and went on to play college football at Lewis and Clark in Portland. He then joined the coaching staff at the college when a hip injury ended his playing career during his freshman season.

Now Wilson is focusing his attention on the AAA, and what he lacks in high school coaching experience, he makes up with brazen confidence.

“We’re going to win league this year,” Wilson said. “It may sound funny now, but this is the best group of guys in the league and we’re going to win a league championship. I want everyone in this league to know that we’re the team that should have the target on our back.”

The Phoenix have had 25 players participate in early summer practice (although approximately 19 appear to be varsity-ready), and that may seem small, until you learn that they didn’t even have summer practice last season.

“We really didn’t have anybody last year and had to cancel our summer practice until school started,” said junior Quintrell Anderson, a running back who was named second-team All-AAA last season. “I guess we’re tired of losing.”

Nicholas has every intention of bucking Marshall’s dismal football tradition. Whether he can do that, however, will rest in the hands of the players on the field.

For those players, their motivation is a desire for respect. They don’t want to be the doormat of the AAA any longer.

“People talk all the time, every year. Sometimes the talk gets to us, but this year I’m not letting it happen,” said senior wide receiver Drakari Donaldson. “I want to leave a legacy. I want to start something at Thurgood.”

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Jeremy Balan

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