Excerpt from Odyssey -- Chapter III
By Aaron M. Smith
“Football is an honest game. It's true to life. It's a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life.” Joe NamathSummer in southwestern Ohio can even make visiting Floridians complain about the heat. The mercury has no trouble finding the 90-degree mark and the humidity makes one feel like pneumonia has taken over the lungs. The best place to be on a July afternoon in Cincinnati is poolside and that is where a lot of the Norwood Indian football players relaxed in the summer of 1991 during the final days of vacation before the first practice.
“I hung out by the pool outside our stadium a lot,” said Norwood fullback Ken Carter. “We all spent a lot of time out there.”
One person, though, was usually missing from the poolside fun.
Over on the track inside Shea Stadium, heat waves rose from the rubber surface blurring all that was above it. Carter looked over and saw Marc Edwards by himself in shorts and a cut-off t-shirt. In the agonizingly brutal summer sun, the junior tailback was running sprints. He was leaping up and down on one leg and then the other, working on strength and balance. And he would take conditioning laps all in preparation for his upcoming season. As sweat poured from his face, he didn’t once glance over at the relief where his teammates relaxed.
“I remember looking down at him and thinking to myself, ‘Damn, that kid is dedicated. This guy is going to be someone,’” Carter said. “I could have worked hard like that – we all could have. But he was the one working down there on that hot track all by himself.”
It was all a part of Marc’s mental checklist. In his mind, had he dipped even a toe in that refreshing swimming pool, he would have been doing himself a disservice. He would not have been doing what he needed to do to make it to the NFL. When you want something enough, maturity can blossom.
That maturity made Marc wise beyond his years. He was aware that college football was a long shot and that the only sure bet was an education. Late nights when classmates were out with friends, Marc was figuring out why a2 + b2 = c2 or how to save a particular participle from dangling. Figuring out the intricacies of algebra and grammar helped Marc to achieve induction into the National Honor Society.
Marc wanted to go to college. Whether he played football or not was another issue. But college was the next step. If college was in his future, he would be the first in his family to accomplish the feat.
The more opportunities Marc surrounded himself with, the better chance he had at getting to college. He understood that there would be no NFL without college. And, more importantly, he understood that there would be no college football if he couldn’t cut it in the college classroom. To make sure he was wanted by academic types as well as football coaches, Marc had to diversify. He couldn’t just be a football player. He needed to get involved with other extracurricular activities.
A blue-collar kid with a nose for flattening linebackers succeeding in the classroom was one crack in the stereotype, but Marc took it one step further. On some nights, instead of strapping on a helmet, shoulder pads, and a mesh jersey, Marc would button up his tuxedo, fasten his classic black bowtie, and throw on a silk top hat. Instead of blasting through a defender’s arm tackle, he would belt out a show tune as a member of Norwood High School’s The Silhouettes.
The Silhouettes are a singing and dancing troupe at Norwood High School that still performs at the high school today. They put on performances throughout the community and at school functions. They also participate in competitions throughout the year.
“Marc was a terrible singer, but he loved going up there and singing,” said long-time friend and former high school teammate Matt Ventura.
Marc said that being able to perform on the stage was a completely different side of him that people really didn’t expect. But he felt it was necessary to accomplish his goals.
“It was great because I had a whole different set of friends, not just meathead football players,” Marc said smiling. “I gave it my all; I wasn’t the best, but I gave it everything I had. At the competitions, I’d get a rush right before we went on. It was different, but it made a big difference. It gave me perspective.”
Ken Carter said Marc would get good-natured ribbings from time to time or get snickers when he would dress up in his tuxedo, but that it didn’t matter to him. Marc had a good time and he made himself a better person.
“When you’re in high school, being a Silhouette isn’t exactly the coolest thing,” Carter said. “But he was a part of it and that’s all he cared about. He put his heart into it just as much as he did with football. I can’t remember ever seeing him put his mind to something and not accomplish it.”
(As a senior, Marc would even be cast as Conrad Birdie, the lead role in Norwood’s production of the musical, Bye Bye Birdie.)
But as much as Marc diversified, he knew his junior season on the gridiron could go a long way in breaking down barriers. In 1991, the city of Norwood also needed Marc and the Indians to have a great year. They needed a shot of success to divert their minds from the economic disaster that was taking hold of their community the way a vine strangles a flower.
Nearly four years earlier in the summer of 1987, the city’s largest employer – the General Motors automobile plant – shut down operations and effectively cut more than 4,200 jobs and shattered the financial stability of many in the community. Since the final car – a $22,000 cherry red Camaro – rolled off of the assembly line at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 26, families in Norwood had been dealing with an abundance of stress and fractured dreams. Feature articles about Norwood’s fate appeared in local publications as well as in national newspapers such as the New York Times. Unemployment skyrocketed, houses foreclosed, families broke apart.
According to the New York Times, General Motors generated more than $2.6 million in payroll tax revenue a year for Norwood, which equated to about 28 percent of the city's budget. Then Mayor Joe Sanker called the closing of the plant “terribly devastating” to the residents of Norwood.
Norwood faced a $1.8 million deficit and 26 municipal workers were laid off while 22 others were not replaced. In addition, Norwood was forced to cut salaries, halt spending on improvements such as sidewalk repairs, and it proposed a tax increase, according to the New York Times. Any possible growth of the community or improvements to what it already had were simply put on hold or halted all together.
“During those years in the post-GM shutdown, it was pretty dark in Norwood,” Carter said. “It was so hard for people to find jobs. It was really hard on families. It was kind of neat that it was then that our team started to get really good and that a lot of positive attention was given to that team and to Marc. It helped us have a little more pride in our town. I think it helped people forget about the problems they had at home.”
Norwood residents were desperate for something positive. They would not have to wait much longer. A diversion was coming.
|Marc with his "Grandma Dot|
Quest for 2,000
Local newspapers gave Norwood positive press in the preseason, picking the Indians to finish second behind rival Harrison in the Queen City Conference – National Division. It had been a while since Norwood was looked at as a contender for the division throne. No one had any gauge on just how successful Marc would be in his junior season, the newspapers saying he was “a proven ground gainer.” They stopped short of calling him the best running back in Ohio or even in Cincinnati, however, even after he led the city in rushing as a sophomore. One question mark in the vaunted Indian offense would be at the quarterback position. Scott Marcum had graduated and was suiting up for Georgetown College in Kentucky. Junior Eric Ragle would be the new leader of the Indian attack.
Traditionally, seniors would serve as team captains, but Jim Barre recognized Marc’s leadership capabilities and named him one of the captains for the 1991 season.
Marc was not shy. When he spoke, people had no choice but to listen. If someone messed up, Marc was certain to let them know about it. Early on, there was some jealousy because Marc received all of the newspaper print. Some thought Marc was simply handed the captainship as a junior. But it was hard to deny that Marc backed up his words with actions. He could tell someone to work harder because he had already put in the effort. He could tell a player to focus because he had already studied the game plan himself. Marc had credibility. Any jealousy quickly turned to respect.
“He was a great leader,” Barre said. “His attitude and work ethic rubbed off on our team. It didn’t take long to get everyone on board.”
Marc said Barre was the one who taught him how to be a leader in addition to a great football player. Barre made sure Marc ate well. He made sure Marc helped to motivate everyone on the team to participate during off-season work.
“He was my coach, my adviser, and my friend,” Marc said about Barre. “He looked out for me and he was always there for me. Obviously, I was very motivated on my own, but Coach Barre was always there encouraging me, pushing me, forcing me to do things the right way.”
When Marc was named captain, he basically did for the other players what Barre had done for him. He led by example, first, and with words when needed.
“He was amazing,” Carter said. “He was always pumped up. If somebody had their head down, he’d get in their face and build them up. He would also call someone out if they were slacking. You knew Marc was never going to be slacking and he made sure we were giving the same effort.”
The lofty expectations and thoughts of a special season, however, took a right hook to the jaw in the form of a methodical beat down at the hands of Mariemont in the season opener. The Warriors scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, a three-yard score in each the second and third quarters, and finally a 15-yard touchdown run to cap the dominating win in the fourth quarter. Norwood scored late in the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ragle and a two-point conversion run by Marc, who rushed for 130 yards in the loss.
“It feels like we always lost to Mariemont to start our seasons, but then we’d get rolling,” Carter said.
In week two, “rolling” doesn’t begin to describe the onslaught the Indian offense deployed in their home opener.
Behind Marc’s staggering 272 rushing yards on 33 carries, three touchdowns, and six extra points – Marc was the kicker, too – Norwood amassed 529 yards of total offense en route to a 36-19 drubbing of Glen Este. Marc’s performance was a sign that being a “proven ground gainer” was about as big an understatement as saying the General Sherman in Sequoyah National Park is a big tree.
Marc’s abilities stunned his coach. Marc wasn’t just bowling over smaller players; he was outrunning them, too.
Barre always had conversations with his assistants about what an NFL player would look like. He had figured that the player would have to be extremely gifted physically and have a work ethic second to none.
“That was Marc,” Barre said. “Marc had both.”
A few days before Norwood traveled to Amelia for the Indians’ next game, Marc’s temperature rose higher than an Arizona afternoon. Sitting on his doctor’s table with a 103-degree fever and a pain ripping at his throat, Marc bawled – not because of the pain, but because he thought he would have to miss time on the football field.
Dr. Frank Perrino, Norwood’s team doctor and the Edwards’s family doctor, administered him a shot and Marc finally settled down after repeatedly saying, “I’m not going to miss the game Friday. I’m going to play. I’m going to play.”
According to Cheryl, Perrino was another “behind-the-scenes” benefactor for the family. He would always find a way to see the boys when they were sick or injured. It didn’t matter if Cheryl’s lack of medical insurance became an obstacle, Perrino made sure the family was taken care of. Whether it was writing off debts or finding specialists to help the family, Perrino went above and beyond his day-to-day responsibilities as the family’s physician.
“He was another one of those unsung heroes in Marc’s life,” Cheryl said. “I’ve told him that no one really knows all the things he did for this family, to get Marc to where he’s at. He is a special person.”
Norwood’s workhorse was still weak at kickoff time with what was diagnosed as strep throat and he struggled to sustain his energy. Several players were ill entering the game, but all felt a little better at halftime after earning a 21-6 advantage at the break.
The Indians went on to topple Amelia, 28-6, behind the all-around efforts of Mike Carmack and Ragle. The victory set up a battle with undefeated and high-scoring Anderson in week four. The Redskins were averaging 41 points per contest, leading all Cincinnati squads. In three games, Anderson had outscored its opponents 123-14.
If ever there was a time for a statement, for a signature win, that game provided the opportunity for Norwood.
The newspapers had picked Anderson – it had beaten Norwood in each of the last two years and the Redskins were clearly one of the top teams in the city in 1991. Anderson running back Jason Druso led area running backs with 13.7 yards per carry and, along with fellow running back Lou Andreadis, had totaled more than 500 yards on the ground in three games.
Marc entered the game still in recovery from strep throat, but he had 411 rushing yards to his credit, which put him at fifth in the city rankings. The big running back needed 210 yards to break the school rushing record and Barre predicted that if he accomplished the feat, Norwood would send Anderson home a loser for the first time that year.
In order to compete against the Redskins, Barre had to unleash his offense and flush any conservative notions down the drain. After the Indian defense shut down Anderson on its first drive, Norwood’s offense popped the Redskins in their mouth. On the first play from scrimmage, Ragle dropped back and uncorked a 69-yard bomb to Steve Berling, placing the Indians at the Anderson 10-yard line. On play two, Marc grabbed the handoff from Ragle and blasted through a gaping hole at the line of scrimmage and punched it into the end zone. The running back added the extra point and Norwood led early, 7-0.
Norwood’s score kick-started a circus-like back-and-forth affair. Anderson tied the game with about four minutes to play in the first quarter, but the Indians responded with fireworks again. This time, a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ragle to Carmack gave the Indians a 14-7 lead after the opening quarter. The game would slow down a bit in the second quarter as neither team scored. Anderson threatened twice, but both times, Marc forced fumbles with crushing collisions from his middle linebacker position.
Late in the third quarter, Anderson ended the scoring drought and tied the score at 14, but the Norwood defense took over from there. Anderson was poised to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Carmack picked off an errant Jason Bell pass and raced 70 yards for the score, giving the Indians a 21-14 advantage.
But back came the Anderson Redskins on a monumental drive of their own. The game was like a heavyweight fight; both teams swinging and landing solid jabs and occasionally uppercuts. The Redskins drove all the way to the Norwood nine-yard line in just seven plays. On fourth and one, Andreadis took the handoff but was stopped at the line of scrimmage, turning the ball over to the Indians.
During a timeout, Barre gathered his players together in the huddle.
“All right guys,” he shouted. “Let’s put together a nice long five-minute drive and close this damn game out!”
Ragle called out the first play – a tailback run up the middle – and the team broke the huddle and jogged to the line of scrimmage. With the crowds from both teams on their feet and screaming cheers into the night sky, Ragle barked the cadence. The ball was snapped and Ragle turned and handed the ball to Marc, who was charging at full speed.
The big junior cut to his left, plowed through a hole in the line and rumbled like a runaway locomotive for 91 yards and the game-clinching touchdown. The play took barely 10 seconds from handoff to score. After adding the extra point, Norwood led 28-14. When Marc got to the sideline, his coach smiled and shook his head.
“Dammit Marc, I wanted you to score, but you could have taken some time off the clock. Nice five-minute drive.”
Anderson still hung on to a thread of hope, but that thread snapped when Jimmie Cobb intercepted Bell and returned the ball 36 yards for another touchdown – Norwood’s third score in less than four minutes. Anderson managed a touchdown late in the game, but the damage had already been done. Norwood held on for a stunning 34-20 victory in front of the home crowd. Marc finished with 202 yards rushing – eight shy of the record – but Barre’s prediction still came to fruition.
The win over Anderson (Anderson’s only loss that year) got people talking. Norwood had basically handled what was considered to be one of the best teams in the city. After falling in the opener, Norwood had just ripped off three dominating victories. It was then that the excitement really started to blossom for the Indian football team.
“The fans were really starting to get excited,” Ken Carter said. “Each week, more and more people came. Coming from a small blue-collar town, this was as close to royalty as we could get.”
Even the non-typical fans started showing up across the stadium by the railroad tracks to see what all the fuss was about.
“You’d see these guys, the Metallica t-shirt wearing guys with long hair, over there on the train tracks drinking six-packs,” Carter recalled. “They never went to our games before, but now they were. Everyone was getting caught up in it.”
The win over Anderson – the Indians’ third over a Division I school – put Norwood atop the Division II, Region 8 point standings. The top four schools from each region in the state qualified for the Ohio High School playoffs. With three games remaining against Division I schools, Barre felt his team had a good chance of earning a playoff berth for the first time in school history.
In week five of the season, Norwood got no resistance from Division II and conference foe Hughes. The Indians roared to a 35-0 shutout behind Marc’s 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Marc’s total gave him the Norwood career rushing record over Mike Pinson, who rushed for 2,541 yards from 1986-88. Marc had amassed the record yardage in just 25 career games. In only five games during his junior season, Marc had rushed for 813 yards.
Against 3-2 Winton Woods in week six, Marc raised eyebrows all over the Midwest and had everyone talking about the 2,000 yard plateau. In a 20-7 victory over Winton Woods, Marc scored all of the team’s points by rushing for three touchdowns. But his scoring was eclipsed by the sheer quantity of real estate he covered with the pigskin in his tree trunk arms. Marc carried the ball 29 times and amassed 343 rushing yards, which put another school record under Marc’s name in the Norwood record book. He had 146 yards at the intermission and, in the fourth quarter, rumbled for 113 more yards.
While Marc was getting all the press for his astronomical statistics, his teammates often found themselves draped by his huge shadow. They didn’t complain, though, and went about their work. Marc recognized this and made sure to mention his teammates’ names, especially the offensive linemen, when speaking to reporters after games.
Norwood coaches handed out hatchet stickers to deserving players. The stickers would then be placed on their helmet as a reward. Marc certainly got his share.
“Marc got so many of those stickers,” Carter remembered. “He’d get so many that his helmet was so damn full of them. So he’d give us his extra hatchet stickers and tell us that they were because we blocked so well for him. He was so good about stuff like that.”
Walnut Hills was next on Norwood’s hit list and for the second week in a row, Marc scored all of the team’s points in a 14-0 shutout win. He ran all over the field for 177 more rushing yards. It was the sixth straight victory for the high-flying Indians and the victory put Norwood in a tie for first place in the QCCN with rival Harrison and a ninth-place ranking in the city standings.
Week eight featured the game of the year in the Queen City Conference: a tilt between Norwood and Harrison. This game would effectively decide the division champion. It was a game that would certainly surpass the pre-game hype.
The euphoria of six straight Indian victories soon melted into a quagmire of shock and disappointment. In front of a fired-up home crowd, Norwood watched as visiting Harrison took control of the game in the first half. Harrison scored on a 22-yard run in the first quarter and then took a 14-0 lead in the second period. But it was the third touchdown of the half that ripped the hearts out of Norwood fans, players, and coaches. Harrison had the ball at the close of the first half and set up a pass on the final play. The ball was tipped way incomplete, but in came a fluttering yellow flag.
Holding on the defense.
The penalty gave Harrison one final shot from the Norwood 20-yard line with no time on the clock. Quarterback Mike Huff dropped back in the pocket to pass and then sailed the ball toward the end zone. The ball was tipped by a Harrison receiver and fell into the waiting hands of Scott Johnson for a stunning and back-breaking score.
As the Indians sauntered toward their locker room under the cloud of a 21-point deficit, taunts rained down on the city’s leading rusher from the visitors section in the stands. Marc turned to the Harrison faithful and smiled a knowing smirk, much to the chagrin of Coach Barre.
“Marc!” Barre screamed. “What the hell are you smiling about? You haven’t done a damn thing out there and you’re laughing?”
Marc’s smile disappeared when he got into the locker room and saw his dejected teammates. He glanced over and saw 6-foot-4-inch, 255 pound lineman Dave Hubbard with his head buried in his hands. Marc snapped.
“Dave was the biggest, meanest son of a gun,” Marc said. “He was in there with his head down and he was normally one of the most intense people out there. I just went off on him. I was pissed. I got him fired up and we all went out for the second half with a purpose.”
When the Indians reached the field, Marc looked over and saw the Harrison players dancing on the sidelines. They had the game won, in their minds.
“Harrison was a bunch of …” Marc stopped in mid thought. “They were tough. Seeing them dancing over there, I thought that was classless. That just motivated us, especially in front of our home fans.”
Norwood quickly got on the board in the second half behind Marc’s ground attack. He plowed into the end zone from two yards out to cut the deficit to 21-6. He missed the extra point, though, making the mountain that much harder to ascend.
Late in the third quarter, Norwood got closer. Ragle found J.R. Farrell for a 22-yard touchdown strike as the crowd began to get back into the game. Marc could not convert the two-point try, leaving the Indians still two scores down.
As the Norwood defense continued to shut down the Harrison attack, the intensity of the game grew as the seconds tick, tick, ticked off the clock. Time was becoming an enemy of the Indians.
Late in the fourth quarter, Norwood methodically pounded its way down the gridiron. Needing two scores, the Indians also needed a miracle. With about 42 seconds remaining in the game, Marc took a handoff and squirted his way into the end zone. Barre called for the extra point try and Marc nailed the kick to cut the deficit to 21-19 in favor of Harrison.
Everyone in the stadium knew what had to happen as Norwood lined up for the on-side kick. Marc was the kicker and Barre lined up two of his biggest guys on either side of Marc. The 210-pound All-Everything tapped the ball with his foot and trailed behind as his two buddies plowed through any Harrison player with aspirations of recovering the loose football. After the ball went the required 10 yards, Marc pounced onto the ground and quickly became part of a pile of limbs and cleats. He grappled with anyone who tried to reach for the ball. When the referees pulled body after body off of the pile, Marc stood and raised one arm. In his hand was the football.
“The place was just going absolutely nuts,” Marc said. “It was incredible to be a part of. After the terrible first half we played, we now had a chance to win the darn thing.”
Barre calmly called in the offensive plays and Norwood executed them to perfection, one of which was a 20-yard catch and run by Marc. The Indians managed to move the ball to the Harrison 17-yard line with just two seconds on the clock. Instead of trying for a desperation touchdown attempt, Barre put the game on Marc’s shoulders, or rather on the toe of his huge cleat. His junior captain had already carried the team this far. Now a 34-yard field goal was the difference between a crushing loss and a thrilling come-from-behind victory.
The field goal unit took the field as Marc lined up behind the ball. He had never made an attempt this far before, but he was confident. Barre stood on the sidelines with his hands on his knees, trying to get the best angle. Fans stood quietly in the stands, some with hands over their eyes, some literally out of breath.
The ball was snapped and Marc approached the ball. His big right leg cut through the air and struck the ball with great speed. The ball sailed into the night sky and drifted toward the goal posts. As the ball crossed the posts, the Norwood manager jumped into the air with his hands high. Barre stood tall and gasped. Marc was ready to release in a primal celebration until he saw the referees waiving their arms and signaling that the ball had sailed wide to the left.
Marc’s heart fluttered and sank as he crumbled to the cold grass and mud. Harrison’s players rushed the field to celebrate the crucial conference victory as Barre still stood in utter disbelief.
“To this day, I swear to God he made that field goal,” Barre said. “Our manager saw it go through; I thought it was good, but the official said he missed it. I guess it was wide left.”
The game still causes Marc grief.
“I kicked the ball well,” he said. “It would have been good from 60 yards. I thought it went through; I just destroyed the ball. Every angle, it looked good, I guess except from where the officials were standing. That one still burns me. That’s a game we should have had.”
It was one of the more remarkable performances in his career and one that his teammates will always remember.
“He was amazing,” Ken Carter said. “He was so determined to win that game. We were getting our butts kicked the first half and then Marc led a great comeback. I was proud to be a part of that game. We almost got the win. I hate to use the word ‘almost.’ In our hearts, we know we won that game.”
As it stood, Harrison earned the important victory and improved to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the QCCN. Norwood dropped to 6-2, 3-1 respectively. The Indians were still in good shape to qualify for the state playoffs, but they needed help to win a share of the conference. Norwood had to defeat Northwest the following week and Harrison had to lose to Winton Woods.
Only one of those requirements was met in week nine. Behind Marc’s astonishing 310 rushing yards and three touchdowns, Norwood outraced Northwest, 32-26. But Harrison took the QCCN crown with a victory over Winton Woods.
Attention quickly turned from trying to win a conference crown to earning a playoff berth for the Indians. Another milestone also came within reach for Marc. After his 310 yard output against Northwest, Marc was 232 yards away from reaching 2,000 yards during the season. The last player to rush for 2,000 yards was Carlos Snow, who played at the Cincinnati Academy of Physical Education (CAPE) – which was dubbed Jock Tech by some critics of the school’s practices. Snow, who went on to play college football at Ohio State, had rushed for 2,336 yards in 1985 and 2,489 in 1986, but never did he rush for 2,000 yards during the regular season. It took him four post-season games in each season to amass his record yardage.
Going into the final game against Roger Bacon, Marc led the area in rushing by 293 yards; his second Cincinnati-area rushing title had been all but locked up.
There would be no drama on the final Friday night of the regular season as Marc carried the ball 37 times for 306 yards and four touchdowns, capping an incredible season. Marc’s total not only finished off a city rushing title for the second year in a row, it gave him more rushing yards – 2,074 – than any running back in the entire state of Ohio that year.
The Indians destroyed Roger Bacon 40-16, but more importantly, they most likely secured a spot in the post-season for the first time in school history – they only had to wait for the computers to do their thing and for a call from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the players pumped their fists and milled around the field not wanting the night to end. Usually, the season closed its doors on that final Friday night, but 1991 was different. Norwood attendance more than tripled from a year prior and it seemed as if each fan didn’t want the night to end either. But no matter how long the fans and players patrolled the cold grass that night, they’d have to go to bed eventually. They would have to wonder if they did enough to earn a playoff berth.
The waiting was the only painful part about that night.
Saturday came and went and still no one from Norwood had been notified with the official announcement of a play-off berth. On Sunday afternoon at precisely 3:15, the telephone rang. Coach Barre answered the phone and heard the sweet news the city of Norwood had been expecting.
“Congratulations,” the voice said. “You’ve qualified for the playoffs. You’ll be playing Dayton Dunbar next Friday at Centerville. Best of luck to you.”
The roar of the players and boosters that gathered for the phone call that cold November day could be heard from corner to corner in the streets of Norwood.
On Monday morning, residents of Norwood picked up newspapers off of wet, frosty grass or off of sticky tables at breakfast haunts throughout the community. What they read were headlines never before written about their beloved Indians:
Norwood Playoff Bound: Boosters, players alike caught up in school ‘first’
It was celebrity time for Marc and the rest of the Norwood football team. Everyone in the community was relishing their moment.
“Norwood needed something like this,” Ken Carter said. “People looked at Norwood like it was a hick town and that it was not a nice place to live. Norwood needed that team. They needed that success.”
Everyone wanted a piece of that team. They were getting police escorts and churches would have the team over for dinner banquets. Never mind the dismal state of the local economy, Norwood was going to the playoffs.
Some people still didn’t look at the Norwood team as that impressive, however. Dunbar coach Tom Montgomery was quoted in the Dayton Daily News as saying Norwood quarterback Eric Ragle was just an “average” quarterback despite his more than 1,100 yards through the air. Marc Edwards was the only one they needed to worry about, the coach implied. Montgomery also looked past the Indians to a possible rematch with St. Mary’s Memorial, which had toppled Dunbar in the 1990 Regional Final. And most of the newspapers agreed with Montgomery, picking Dunbar to advance and Norwood to wilt under the spotlight of its first post-season experience.
Riding in chartered buses, the Norwood football team arrived in style at Centerville High School. The 42-mile trek ended in the stadium parking lot and the masses of red-and-blue-clad Indian fans cheered as Marc and his teammates exited the bus into the frigid Ohio air. The game was a pseudo home game for Dunbar, which was only 13 miles away, but looking at the fans who packed the stadium, it was hard to tell which school was closer.
Norwood is a close-knit, everybody-knows-everybody town. When people succeed, the town celebrates. When people fail, you can rest assured most Norwood residents will find out about it before the week’s end.
Norwood’s football program didn’t have the best winning tradition, but everyone in that town was taking full advantage of that fantastic moment in its history. They knew it was a season that people would talk about for a lifetime. And on that night, there was no doubt which team was the “home” team. All you had to do was look up at the throng of standing Norwood fans screaming while a near-empty section of Dunbar fans silently sat.
Norwood and Dunbar were a contrast of styles. Dunbar was a high-flying, big-play type of team while Norwood was perfectly happy grinding out chunks of gridiron on the back of its stud running back. Norwood was big and strong. Dunbar was sleek and fast. Dunbar had been there before. Norwood had not.
And so, on a frigid Friday night that would make Green Bay fans shiver, the contrasting styles met on a frozen tundra of their own in west-central Ohio.
“During warm-ups, I was kicking footballs and they felt like damn bricks,” Marc said. “It was horrible. So damn cold.”
Norwood received the ball first and immediately looked like the playoff veterans. In a seven-play, 53-yard opening drive, the Indians pounded the ball up the middle and ran misdirections to keep the quick Wolverines from attacking. Ragle capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Mike Carmack – the beginning of a stat-stuffing day for Carmack, who had spent the majority of the season as an understudy to Marc’s leading role.
After the opening score, Dunbar used its speed to run away from the seemingly overmatched Indians. The Wolverines scored on a 25-yard run in the first quarter and then again on a 17-yard pass in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead at the intermission. They pushed their lead to 20-7 in the third quarter after a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Fans in the stands may have been hushed, but the Norwood players knew they weren’t dead yet.
“I wasn’t worried,” Marc said. “I knew they would get tired.”
As the third quarter wore on, Marc’s prediction came true. Marc battered the Dunbar defense with power runs and when the Wolverines were beaten from trying to tackle the big running back, Carmack used his quickness to torch the secondary.
Late in the third quarter, Carmack began the comeback.
On a field goal attempt that could cut the lead to 20-10, Carmack, the holder, took the snap and stood tall looking for an open receiver. He did not find one so he began to run. He skittered to the left and then to the right and finally heaved the ball downfield. All alone in the end zone was Ken Carter who snagged the ball for a touchdown in a momentum-changing shocker. The game was not over, much to the chagrin of Montgomery and his Wolverines. Their rematch with St. Mary’s Memorial would have to wait as Norwood crept to within six at 20-14.
The Indian defense turned stout, stopping the faster Wolverines on their ensuing possession. After Dunbar punted, Norwood found itself 73 yards away from its goal. Five plays later, Carmack raced around the left end for a shocking 20-yard touchdown run. Again, it was Marc who set ’em up, and Carmack who knocked ’em down.
Tied at 20 apiece, Marc lined up for the go-ahead extra point. The ball was snapped and Marc swung his leg at the ball. It lifted off of the ground, but was immediately swatted out of the air. The huge block by the Dunbar defense kept the score knotted at 20 late in the fourth quarter.
On its responding possession, Dunbar was shocked by the quickness of one of Norwood’s biggest players. The Wolverines were driving and were near mid-field. Highly touted quarterback Latrell Turner dropped back to pass and the Norwood coaches knew what was coming and began screaming, “Screen! Screen!” Defensive tackle Dave Hubbard stood his ground and stepped between Turner and his intended receiver. The big tackle clawed at the ball and intercepted the pass. He rumbled to the Wolverines’ 28-yard line, giving the Indians a golden chance to put the finishing touches on a stunning second-half comeback.
On first down, the ball went to Marc who galloped 24 yards to the four-yard line as the large Norwood contingent screamed as their breath lofted into the sky as puffy white clouds. Carmack’s number was called next and he responded with the game-winning touchdown as Centerville High School became Norwood High School North.
Defensive back Steve Cole wrapped up the 27-20 victory by recovering a fumble on Dunbar’s final drive.
The final gun sounded and hysteria hit the thrilled Norwood fans and the players who fought for 48 minutes under the frigid late autumn sky. People raced up and down the field, congratulating anyone in a white Norwood uniform. The Indians had just taken their first playoff appearance and found a way to turn it into an improbable, thrilling first playoff victory.
“When the game ended, it was just crazy,” Marc said. “Everyone was screaming and running on the field. It was awesome. Then the local access channel comes up to interview me and my mouth is frozen. No one could understand a word I said.”
Teachers would play that video the next week in class to share a laugh with Marc and the students of Norwood High School. It was, after all, still football season in Norwood.
Marc didn’t make it into the end zone that night, but his presence was most definitely felt by the Dunbar defensive unit. He amassed 184 yards rushing on 41 bruising carries and, on defense, he led the Norwood squad in tackles.
“I could see that Dunbar was getting tired in the third period,” Barre said after the game. “No one wanted to tackle Marc near the end. Their kids were falling all over the field in the fourth period.”
As for Montgomery, he found out that Norwood was more than a one-man team. He had his hands full with Marc, but the speed of Carmack and accuracy of Ragle were more than the Wolverines could handle. Had Dunbar won, Montgomery wouldn’t have gotten his wish of a rematch with St. Mary’s Memorial because it, too, was upset in its playoff opener by Marysville, setting up an unlikely Regional Final between the No. 4 Monarchs and the No. 3 Indians.
Again, a large contingent of Norwood supporters made the trek, this time to the University of Dayton’s Welcome Stadium. But after a close game dominated by the defenses, Norwood’s season came to a depressing end in a 14-0 shutout – the second straight shutout for the Marysville defense. Barre’s pre-game fears of Marysville’s hard-hitting 4-4 defense came true as the Monarchs throttled Marc and Norwood’s high-scoring offensive unit. Marc finished with only 84 yards while the team, as a whole, could only muster 183 total yards.
In just a few years, though, Norwood had improved from 0-10 to 9-3 with a couple of playoff games under its belt. With Marc coming back as a senior with seemingly unlimited potential, the Indians were nearly a lock to make a repeat appearance in the post-season.
"I figured we'd be back," Marc said. "We had a great year and I had no doubt we'd do it again."
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