Harris County football: Led by Marvin James, Tigers gear up for first-ever second-round playoff game

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 21, 2012 

It was the 2009 football season, and Harris County freshman Marvin James had spent the year playing saxophone in the band.

He was there for every game, including a 34-7 drubbing the Tigers had suffered at the hands of Griffin in the first round of the state playoffs.

It was the team's reaction to the loss, James said, that inspired him to join the team the following spring.

"It was a bad loss," he said. "I saw guys hurt emotionally, but they were still a team. It was inspirational. I wanted to be a part of that."

Now, flash forward nearly three full seasons. James, now a senior, is a starting free safety for the Tigers (7-4), who are preparing for their first second-round playoff game in the school's 56 seasons of varsity football. They host Warner Robins (9-2) in Hamilton, Ga., on Friday.

For James, his experience with the team has lived up to more than he could have expected.

"This year -- this is why I wanted to be a part of this team," he said. "Growing as a team from a bad start to where we are now. Everything's kind of coming full circle. All the hard work is paying off."

It's the hard work that has made James such a success on and off the field at Harris County.

Coming from the band, he said, most people wrote him off from the start. But that only motivated him to work harder.

He worked his way onto special teams, then made it to wide receiver last season. This year, he switched to defense, and the rest has been history.

"The more I worked," he said, "the better I got."

It's a trait, coach Tommy Parks said, that starts at home.

"His parents expect a lot out of him as a student, and that sets the tone for him as a person," Parks said. "The importance of education bleeds over to athletics and whatever else he's doing."

And it's a trait that permeates the Harris County football team.

The team has thrived off of being written off early in the season, relying on its own unity within the locker room to find a path to success.

It's the brotherhood James witnessed as a freshman, spurring his desire to join the team.

"That is the key to our success here," Parks said. "They can fight each other on the practice field, and that's what they do. But on Friday, they've got each other's backs. They trust each other."

That will, once again, be necessary when the Tigers host Warner Robins in the second round.

Parks said the Demons not only were stocked with good athletes, but were well-coached, offering a great challenge for his team. The offensive line has size, strong running backs eat up chunks of yardage and a capable quarterback controls the offense.

It's important, he said, that his team, which has had plenty of success on the ground behind running back Esaias Chapman, can control the ball.

"The best defense is a good offense," he said. "We have to keep their offense off the field and win the battle of field position."

There are plenty of doubters, of course, who say that Warner Robins -- which lost only two games, by five to Peach County and seven to Northside-Warner Robins -- will not only win the game, but win easily.

And yet, James and the Tigers have made a habit of proving the doubters wrong.

"We've been projected to lose to a lot of teams this year," he said, "but we started winning because we worked harder than them. That's what we have to do this week. We have to execute, give 100 percent effort and do our jobs. If we do, we'll be fine."

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