2015 ETSN.fm East Texas Football Super Team Defensive Player Of The Year: Antonio Washington, Marshall
At a place as storied as Marshall, especially now that the program is back on its feet after nearly a decade of sub-par seasons, the reality is memories of the 2015 catalyst team will fade over time.
The Mavericks will develop more standout players. They will have more opportunities to win district championships. A future team probably will succeed this past year's trip to the Class 5A Division II regional semifinals.
Yet third-year head coach Clint Harper is nearly certain he has overseen his most productive defensive tackle ever. Antonio Washington's 99 tackles, including 38 tackles for loss and another six sacks, could very well stand the test of time.
With those incredibly strong numbers, let alone for an interior defensive lineman, Washington is the 2015 ETSN.fm East Texas Super Team Defensive Player of the Year. He succeeds former Gladewater and current Texas A&M defensive tackle Daylon Mack.
"You don't see too many defensive tackles have 99 tackles and for 40 of them to be tackles for loss," Harper said. "He just shattered any records. At Marshall, our record up until this year was 23 tackles for loss. And we've had some really defensive good players. Tremaine Green, Stanley Thomas, Darius Jones.
"The list over the last 30 years, we've put a lot of good football players out on defense. He just obliterated the record for tackles for loss. It's one of those records that's going to be hard to beat. That may be one of those that's around 100 years later at Marshall."
It's not just that Washington put up big numbers. He changed games. Especially in the postseason.
In the bi-district round of the playoffs, Lindale didn't have a defender as dominant as Washington but made up for it with the best overall defense in East Texas and an offense determined to control time of possession. The two teams struggled to a 21-17 score in favor of Marshall before Lindale got the game's final say.
Washington pressured Lindale into four straight incomplete passes at midfield to win the game. And only after helping to hold Lindale on fourth-and-2 from the Marshall 5-yard line the during Lindale's prior possession.
The Mavericks' area-round game was even more of a trench battle early. Dallas South Oak Cliff had three early in the red zone and failed. Washington recorded four tackles for loss during the first half and picked up his first of two forced fumbles in the game.
From there, the Marshall offense got going for a 35-3 win against the team that eliminated it in 2014.
An 11th and final win. The program's best record, by far, since reaching its last state championship game in 2005 and hitting a slump.
It also was a one-round improvement against last year's team and the third straight season for Marshall to reach the postseason. Washington was a part of all three teams, which followed two years where the program combined for three total wins.
"It was crazy," Washington said of the 2015 run. "It felt like we were a Division I team or an NFL team. The fans were always great. That just comes with building a winning program."
Southern Arkansas, an NCAA Division II team, took notice of Washington's body of work and successfully landed his commitment last week.
Harper thinks it's a heist.
"Personally, this is just me, and I've been doing this for over 20-something years now, I think that if 'A-Dub' was 6-foot-3 that you wouldn't be able to get into our parking lot this week," the head coach said. "There'd be so many Division I guys. With the video that he put up, the stats and the way that he dominated -- If he was 6-foot-3 and his size, there wouldn't be a parking spot here available. There would be every coach from USC all the way to Miami in on this guy.
"But he's 6-feet tall. He's not 6-feet-3 or 6-feet-4. Unfortunately, that's just what a lot of these Division I guys look at. They look at what size you are rather than the video."
What cannot be disputed, aside from Washington's numbers, is his impact.
Marshall steadily increased its win total each season with the defensive tackle. The program leapt from 2-8 in 2012 to 11-2.
The school has shed its short-lived disguise as an easy win.
Someone else will have to attempt to chase numbers left behind by guys like Washington, but there's more to this second foundation than just an idea. Big things are once again attainable.
Even if 99 tackles and 46 total takedowns for negative yardage by a single player is not.
"I've talked to Longview and John King," Harper said. "I've talked to (Hallsville's) David Plunk. You literally had to game plan every play. Run play, pass play, you had to know where 'A-Dub' was. You had to know how you were going to attack him. To me, that's the sign of a great football player. To me, you've hit the nail on the head. He was the best football defensive football player in East Texas this past year."