LOUISVILLE — Sometimes, seemingly a split second after the ball is snapped, Ethan Marks is already in the opposing secondary. A quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it burst and he’s gone.
On other occasions, Monarch’s awe-inspiring running back meets tacklers head on. And it’s usually the defensive guy who endures the brunt of the pain. You don’t, after all, rack up 4,752 yards on the ground in a three-season span simply on breakaways.
“I don’t really know how he does it to be honest with you,” Monarch quarterback Jay MacIntyre said. “He gets hit so hard, it’s all his speed right into the linebackers, it’s crazy. He’s fun to watch, that’s for sure.”
Humble, selfless, even a bit shy, Marks is the prototype for Monarch’s grind-it-out offense. Even though the Coyotes have been a bit more dynamic this season with the arrival of MacIntyre, Marks is still every bit the contributor he was last season, when his brilliant postseason helped guide the Coyotes to the Class 4A state championship.
He has scored eight touchdowns in No. 2 Monarch’s first two postseason games, and all eyes undoubtedly will be on the senior Saturday in the semifinals against No. 3 Pine Creek (1 p.m., Warrior Stadium).
“I’ve been blessed with some pretty good running backs in my 28 years of coaching,” Monarch head coach Phil Bravo said. “And Ethan is clearly right up there with them.”
Marks has scored at least four touchdowns on five separate occasions, with two five-TD games to his credit in the regular season. He has rushed for 1,567 yards this season and punched it into the end zone 24 times, including four times on pass receptions.
“Man’s a boss,” Monarch linebacker Peter Mitchell said. “Man’s a beast. MVP right there. He comes in and he does it every week.”
Although Bravo terms Marks a “fitness fanatic,” some might hypothesize that he has little or no concern for his body with the way he attacks opposing tacklers.
That’s only partially true.
“When I first got here, I wouldn’t really pick a hole, I’d just run straight north-south,” Marks said. “As I mature, I’m starting to see holes better. But really, it’s just about doing anything to get a first down, whether it’s juking or running someone over.”
Marks was asked which of those he prefers.
“I mean, I always love running over people,” Marks said. “That’s the reason everybody plays football — to hit people. Touchdowns are good too, but I really like to hit people, personally.”
Marks has not made a college decision but is seeking a strong match for academics and football. Penn is among the schools that are interested, and Marks said he has reached out to Johns Hopkins University. The process still is in its fledgling stages, however.
“I definitely want to play football in college, but if it doesn’t happen I’m not going to dwell on it,” Marks said. “I’m not hoping for a D-I scholarship or anything, but if that happens it’d be great.”
Marks’ go-with-the-flow nature off the field has made him extremely likable with coaches and teammates. Monarch unveiled snazzy new uniforms this season, and it soon was apparent that Marks’ customary No. 7 was too big. Opposing defenses were able to grab onto it, giving them a better chance to bring him down.
Bravo told Marks that there was no way to order a new jersey in a timely manner and asked whether he could switch with backup kicker Trevor Elser and wear No. 8. Marks made the change without the slightest snivel.
“A lot of kids are in egocentric mode about their number, but that’s just not his style,” Bravo said. “Things that are superficial don’t mean a lot to him. It’s things that are inward that really count to him.”
Bravo believes Marks projects well as a potential college player because of his strength and his demeanor, coupled with a vast skill set.
“He has a lot of attributes that you don’t find in one back,” Bravo said. “Some might have two or three of them, but when you have the combination of skills that Ethan has, it makes him pretty special.”
Marks originally cracked the lineup as a sophomore and quietly churned out 1,210 yards while playing opposite primary ball-carrier Jared Meschke. Last season, Marks fought through a nagging shoulder injury during the regular season then turned it on during the Coyotes’ push for the Mountain League title.
He elevated things to an insanely high level in the postseason, culminating with a 186-yard performance in the title game against Denver South. He finished the season with 1,975 yards on the ground.
Marks again labored through an early-season injury this fall, an ankle this time, but again rounded into shape just past the midway point of the regular season. Although he deflects much credit to the system and running backs coaches James Daly and Jason Stout, he is compiling yardage at a historic rate. It’s something he never envisioned when he initially joined the program.
“Not at all. I never had a particular number in my head, I just wanted to be a part of the Monarch football team and help them win a state championship,” Marks said. “Now we have a chance to win two, and that’s all I’ve really wanted.”
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