The 3 talking points: East Marion EaglesBy JOSHUA CAMPBELL,
1. What they can hang their hat on:
Two words — Devin Daniels. The electrifying playmaker who accouted for 33 touchdowns in 2018 — 18 passing, 13 rushing, one interception return — is entering his fourth season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback, and he has been nothing short of a superstar. The plays he can make when he scrambles both with his legs and his arm are special. There were several times last season where he waited until just before he crossed the line of scrimmage before pulling up to launch a deep ball for a touchdown. It’s rare to see that kind of awareness in high school.
Daniels is also a ball hawk in the secondary and a fearsome tackler. He racked up 53 tackles as a cornerback and had three interceptions, eight pass breakups and a forced fumble. He is the heart and soul of both the offense and defense, and he’s only going to be better as a senior.
2. Where they can improve:
The Eagles have to be more consistent. Their defense pitched five shutouts last season, yet they also gave up 30 points or more five times. Offensively they set a school record with 80 points against North Forrest but were also held to just eight points against Nanih Waiya and Lumberton and 12 against West Marion. Week to week you never knew which team was going to show up.
The lack of consistency showed up in East Marion’s record as well. The Eagles started the season 2-4 then went 6-2 in their last eight games. East Marion is making the leap back up to Class 2A this season and will need to be on top of its game every week if it plans on reaching South State again.
3. The X-factor:
East Marion’s front seven on defense. The Eagles closed their season in 2018 on an absolute tear. They beat Mount Olive 30-0 and Resurrection Catholic 36-7 to end the regular season. In the playoffs they went on the road and thrashed 10-2 Noxapater 26-0 then 11-1 Lumberton 26-14.
While establishing a more consistent running game and playing solid in the secondary was key, the Eagles’ front seven was the reason why they became one of the top teams in the state. They absolutely beat up opponents in the trenches. East Marion penetrated into the backfield at will, gang tackled and delivered big hits that wore down the opposition. If that front seven shows up this season, there’s no reason the Eagles won’t have another deep playoff run.