In preseason camp, Jonathan Marrero was last on the depth chart at Springfield College.
"We had six quarterbacks, and I wasn't even accounted for on the roster, because I was hurt (torn hamstring)," recalled Marrero, a 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pound freshman from Hyde Park.
A Boston South League all-star last fall as a senior at Brighton High, Marrero even considered a red-shirt season. But he stuck with it.
How things have changed the last six weeks.
Starting QB Austin Bateman suffered a season-ending injury at Husson in Week 2. His backup, Rob Merkling, went down two weeks later against Rochester, thrusting an untested, yet confident Marrero into the starting lineup for a Liberty League matchup at Union.
Directing the Pride's renowned triple option attack, Marrero ran for 119 yards and threw for another 118 in a 49-21 loss. The following week, he churned out a team-high 73 yards rushing in a 28-7 loss at Hobart, ranked ninth in Division 3.
"That's a heck of thing, to step in as the starting quarterback as a freshman, there is no where to hide, let alone running the triple option," said Springfield coach Mike DeLong. "An offense where all the decisions have to be made by the quarterback.
"But each game, he kept getting better and better as he got up to speed with the repetitions."
His first start at home Saturday against the US Merchant Marine Academy was one for the ages. He simply tore up the turf at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field.
Marrero started with a 27-yard sprint down the left sideline for a score, capping an eight-play 75-yard drive.
By the time he was finished, he had racked up 144 yards rushing, and three touchdowns. Through the air, he connected for four more TDs, tying a school record -- all in the first half of a 66-13 romp. He only played two series in the second half after absorbing a hard hit.
"During those touchdown runs, he was doing a lot of things that you can't coach," said DeLong. "He was making people miss. He is very elusive. His performance was really, really impressive."
On Wednesday afternoon, Marrero was back close to home, accepting this week's Gridiron Club of Boston Division 2-3 Gold Helmet Award from the New England Football Writers at Harvard's Dillon Fieldhouse.
His parents, Eliseo and Iris, his younger brother, 13-year-old Xavian (a student at Catholic Memorial), and his uncle, Izzy, were in attendance, looking on proudly. The setting was familiar: Marrero and his teammates at Brighton High, free tickets in hand, made at least one trip per season over to Harvard Stadium to see the Crimson in action.
"Just a matter of confidence, and my teammates having trust in me," said Marrero of his breakout performance. "First game, it was a freshman coming in. Really difficult just running the triple option when you are thrown right into the mix. "
"I always had faith. Never had any doubt in the team. Just believing in myself. On Saturday, it was just playing ball."
DeLong lauds Marrero's work ethic, and his command of the huddle. "[Tuesday night], at practice, he was barking at a few of the offensive lineman who were coming out of the huddle slowly," said the coach. "He has earned their respect."
Marrero and the Pride (4-3) will hit the road Friday morning for a six-hour bus ride to St. Lawrence University.
Bryant University junior receiver Jordan Harris was the Division 1 Helmet recipient. He snared 10 catches for 202 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in powering the Bulldogs to their first win, 38-35 over Robert Morris.
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Stonehill (4-3, 4-2 Northeast-10) hosts unbeaten New Haven (6-0, 5-0) Thursday night at W.B Mason Stadium in a matchup that will be televised on the CBS Sports Network, kicking off at 8.
The Chargers, who dealt Bentley (5-1) its first loss last week, 17-13, are ranked third in Division 2, the highest ranking ever for a Northeast-10 program. The Skyhawks are coming off an impressive 22-20 win over Merrimack.
The coaches, UNH's Pete Rossomando (30-9 in four seasons) and Stonehill's Robert Talley (27-31), are former teammates at Boston University. They are both natives of Staten Island.
"[At the beginning of the season], we wanted this game to mean something, and it will," said Talley.
The Skyhawks are receiving stellar play from senior corner Jareed Gaines, who leads the NE-10 in tackles (81) and forced fumbles (3).
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell