Tallulah Academy teammates instrumental in team’s success

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 27, 2002

12/22/02TALLULAH One of the worst moments in any football player’s week is when his coach calls for “up-downs.” The grueling drill involves breaking down into a pushup stance and hopping up again, in rapid succession.

At Tallulah Academy, the coaches dedicated part of practice every day to up-downs. One for every point the Trojans gave up in the previous week’s game.

Most of the time, however, it turned into a water break.

“If we got scored on, that’s how many up-downs we did. I think that’s the reason we had so many shutouts,” Tallulah running back and linebacker Cade Marsh said with a laugh.

The Trojans turned in six shutouts this season, including a 6-0 blanking of previously unbeaten Briarfield in the final game of the regular season. They allowed only 112 points, won the Conference 5-A championship, and reached the second round of the playoffs.

Now, Tallulah can add two more items to its impressive list of accomplishments.

Marsh, who rushed for 1,463 yards and 16 touchdowns, has been selected as the Vicksburg Post’s Area Offensive Player of the Year, and defensive tackle Britt Grady, who spearheaded the superb effort by the Trojans’ defense with 113 tackles and seven sacks, is the Post’s Area Defensive Player of the Year.

“Britt wound up doing what we felt he could do. It really took a couple of games to get him going,” Tallulah coach Jacky Thames said. “When he turns it on, he can dominate a line of scrimmage, and that’s what he did for us.”

The honor is the latest in a long line for Grady. The senior was selected as the Conference 5-A Defensive MVP by the league’s coaches and participated in the MPSA all-star game.

“When I started this year, one of my goals was to see how many awards I could get, and I pretty much got all of them except for a state championship,” Grady said.

A state title is something Marsh still has a shot at. Only a junior, he turned in his second straight 1,000-yard season. He needs 1,676 yards next season to break Jason Noland’s school record of 4,317 yards, but he’d rather have a championship ring.

“I thought about it a little bit,” Marsh said of the record. “But I want a ring on my finger. All I want is a state championship.”

Coming up short of a title this year certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort on the part of Marsh or Grady. They were at their best in the games that mattered most, like the win over Briarfield for the conference title.

Marsh ran for more than 100 yards and recovered a fumble on defense, while Grady had a season-high 19 tackles.

“I had a lot of family up there, and it’s kind of a big deal up there. I just couldn’t let Briarfield beat us,” Grady said. “We’ve been playing them for six years, and I think they’ve only beaten us once since I’ve been here.”

Part of Grady’s family includes Briarfield lineman John Roland. Grady showed no favoritism toward his kin, however he broke Roland’s leg with a chop block during the game.

Grady said some of Briarfield’s fans called the block a cheap shot, a charge he vehemently denies.

“That’s just football. You can’t do something like that on purpose,” Grady said.

When he wasn’t breaking opponents, Grady nicknamed “Hammer,” short for a childhood nickname of “Hammerhead” was breaking up teammates with laughter.

Thames said Grady was one of the team’s biggest locker room jokesters, while Marsh was more serious. The two players are also cousins and are very close off the field. They provided a sort of yin-and-yang in the locker room that helped steer the Trojans in the right direction this season.

“They were both a big part of our club. Hammer, believe it or not, as big and rough as he is, was the one that kept things light and Cade was on the serious side. They helped their team in different ways,” Thames said.

They helped in different ways on the field, too. Both Marsh and Grady were two-way players and starred on both sides of the ball.

Grady took down ball carriers along the defensive line, then opened holes for Marsh as an offensive lineman. He was selected to the Post’s All-Area team as an offensive lineman last season, and played that position at the all-star game this year.

“He opened some holes when I had to blitz,” Marsh said of Grady’s defense. “He put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and that’s why our defensive backs got so many picks this year.”

Marsh, meanwhile, ripped up opposing offenses when he wasn’t ripping up their defenses. After setting a school record with eight interceptions last season a record broken this year by Preston Walker Marsh moved from defensive back to linebacker this season and had 86 tackles and three interceptions.

“Cade has a little linebacker blood in him anyway. The only reason we kept him out of that position anyway was to keep him fresh for running the football,” Thames said.

Although he has proven to be valuable on defense, Marsh makes his living on offense. Thames said he strived for a balanced run game.

Whenever the game was on the line or the situation critical, however, there was little doubt whose number Thames would call.

“Our gameplan was always to split the load. We had some quality backs this year,” Thames said. “But it seemed like when you needed it you found a way to put the ball in Cade’s hands. And more often than not, Cade will deliver for you.”