LOUISVILLE — Ethan Marks could not have asked for a more enviable situation as he began his first season in the Monarch backfield.
As a sophomore this fall, Marks was not counted on to carry the Coyotes’ offense, a burden that fell to his more seasoned backfield mates, Jared Meschke and Gus Sawicki. Moreover, Marks enjoyed a certain level of anonymity as he evolved into a key cog of Monarch’s vaunted rushing attack while the pressure and limelight fell upon the older teammates.
Yet now, with a spate of injuries and the bright glare of a deep postseason run colliding in front of Marks’ eyes, the situation clearly has changed. And Marks is more than ready for the challenge.
With Meschke likely sidelined due to an injury and Sawicki still rounding into form after his own injury setback, Marks will be Monarch’s main man when the second-seeded Coyotes visit third-seeded Pine Creek Saturday in the Class 4A state semifinals at District 20 Stadium in Colorado Springs.
“Stepping in (last week) against Broomfield in a key situation, that kind of prepared me more for this week,” Marks said. “I felt like there definitely was a lot more pressure on me during Broomfield than this week. I was very concerned for (Meschke). He definitely is one of my best buds on the team and it hurts to see a big impact player go down like that. But you have to go back to the huddle and stay calm.”
Meschke, Monarch’s leading rusher, suffered an injury during last week’s quarterfinal win against Broomfield, and although on Monday head coach Phil Bravo still was awaiting the results of Meschke’s MRI exam, the senior is expected to be sidelined against Pine Creek.
Marks has been a crucial component of Monarch’s attack throughout the season, but the sophomore’s role has grown more prominent during the playoffs. With Sawicki sidelined for the postseason opener against Durango due to a bone bruise, Marks helped pick up the slack by rushing for 97 yards on just six carries while jump-starting Monarch’s 53-3 rout with an early 56-yard touchdown run.
Although Sawicki returned last week–he carried the ball six times for 23 yards against Broomfield–Meschke departed after gaining 62 yards on eight carries. Marks once again more than filled the void, finishing with 134 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries.
Meschke leads Monarch with 1,551 yards. But Marks has compiled a commendable 1,142 yards, and his average of 8.2 yards per carry is the top mark on the club.
“You always hate losing a guy like Jared, who has been having a great season and is a big leader,” senior guard Mike Hattel said. “But I do feel that we do have some good guys coming up. Yes, Ethan is young. But he has been running with the varsity. He’s been starting this whole season. I think we have the depth and have the guys who will step up. (Marks) has been able to perform under pressure.”
Given the dynamic, share-the-load philosophy that always has marked Monarch’s attack, head coach Phil Bravo has no qualms placing the ball in Marks’ hands at the penultimate stage of the season. Marks has turned heads since arriving at Monarch, making an impact last season on special teams as a freshman, and his blend of speed, strength, and intellect has allowed him to thrive this season despite his youth.
“We brought (Marks) up as a freshman knowing that there was a good possibility he could fall into this role as a sophomore,” Bravo said. “As far as intelligence goes, he’s over 4.0. As far as the weight room goes, the guy is one of the strongest guys on the team. As a freshman, we put a lot of pressure on him in practice, and he responded well. He’s one of many guys who will be in charge of this week from the tailback spot.”