Four years ago while coaching the College of Marin football team, Karl Finley was sometimes left wishing he had more players like standout defensive back Craig Marshall.
Now in his first year at Washington High School, Finley has found out just how productive such a scenario can be. The Eagles are 5-2 overall and 3-1 in Academic Athletic Association play entering today’s Bell Game against rival Lincoln, aided by the big-play production of seniors Anthony and Chris Marshall — Craig’s siblings.
“I remember Craig telling me about how he had twin younger brothers who could also play,” Finley said. “And now here I am coaching them. And they’re just like Craig — tough, smart kids that are great athletes.”
The Marshall brothers have been central figures in the reawakening of a Washington program that lorded over the league for many years but stumbled to sub-.500 records and missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Anthony Marshall plays wide receiver and linebacker, and has caught 11 passes for 272 yards (an average of 24.7 yards per reception) and two touchdowns to lead the Eagles’ passing attack. Chris Marshall, a 6-foot, 170-pound receiver-defensive back, has seven catches for 143 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 185 yards and two scores on just 21 carries.
And they have done it all in the middle of an offense that features two top quarterbacks (Derf Butler and Solomon Habtu), a pair of strong running backs (Maurice Barton and Grandville Taylor) and a fast, physical tight end (Solomon Walker).
“We do have confidence and think of ourselves as key guys on the offense,” said Anthony Marshall, who is being recruited by Fresno State along with his brother. “But we also know there are a lot of other guys who can make big plays as well.”
The pair got their start playing football by running around the sideline tossing the ball around at Craig’s games and their family has followed them every step of the way as they’ve gone from Pop Warner to Wash. Their parents and extended family set up a canopy in the stands at every Eagles game — home and away — to watch them, even making the four-plus-hour drive down to Arroyo Grande earlier this season.
“Having that support means so much,” Chris Marshall said. “They’re cooking, blowing their horns and having a great time, and we try to do the same thing and enjoy it every time we play.”
The exuberance has sometimes boiled over into the unpredictable at times this year, as both brothers have audibledout of traditional punts and called fakes a few times. The plays have often left Finley scratching his head on the sideline until he sees one of the Marshalls rambling for a first down, although both Anthony and Chris say they will rein in the ad-libs as the season reaches its critical point.
“No more fakes unless coach calls it,” Anthony Marshall said with a laugh. “Otherwise, he said we’d be sitting with him on the sideline. And we don’t want that.”
63rd annual Bell Game
» WHO: Lincoln (4-3, 3-0 AAA) at Washington (5-2, 3-1)
» WHEN: Today, 3 p.m.
» SERIES: Washington leads 32-29-1
» STREAK: The Mustangs have won two straight to break the Eagles’ 14-year run.
» FIRST GAME: November 1945; Lincoln won 27-6
» LAST YEAR: Lincoln won 11-6