A few years back, I was introduced to Brian Marrow. Not being from here, it took me a bit to learn about him and his family legacy.
We were walking through the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown. As we did, two things became evident:
He was at ease patiently walking amid the managed chaos that is 70-some kids age 7 to 18 having safe fun after school.
And those kids were just as at ease with him.
One kid kindly walked up to him to toss a football. When Brian engaged and returned the throw, a switch went off, and more kids came to him.
The kids were young enough to be just as unfamiliar with him as I had been. But people give off a sense, an aura. Others can pick up on it. When that sense is kindness and it’s at the club, the kids seize on it. That was Brian that day.
Brian was looking for that next place in life to lend a hand, having just stepped back from coaching football at Valley Christian High School.
“You always think you know where you’re supposed to be. But God has a plan,” said Brian.
The plan put him at East High School 18 months ago as Head Coach Marrow – a football fix as part of a massive system overhaul under the direction of Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip.
There’s debate over what’s working and what’s not in the Mohip-led school system. Just about everybody is in agreement that football and Marrow are. The team is 6-3 overall and 4-0 in conference. Playoffs are a strong likelihood.
Just a few years back and amid a carousel of coaches, no one would have bet on this 2018 season.
But it’s here and real. If it can work on the field, then can more bits and pieces of the district work?
Coach Marrow thinks it’s starting to.
“That’s the plan, at least,” said Marrow.
“Our main objective is make great human beings first – God-fearing young men who do things the right way and who are leaders in school.”
A good coach can project well enough how actions can cause reactions. Marrow forecasted this to the team:
“If we have success, people will follow us.”
At East, he said, while there are still issues like anywhere else in the country, change is afoot. It’s happening, he said, with Mohip and the principals who are in place, and the teachers engaging the kids. The impact continues, he said, through Athletics Director Rick Shepas and the coaches who have signed on for this.
The result is a football season that perhaps only they saw coming.
The school had four wins in the past three seasons – including one win in Marrow’s first season.
Now, a city and a community smile.
Marrow said the response from opposing coaches has been refreshing. He rattles off teams that East defeated whose coaches remarked how good this is to see East football happening again.
Success survived even a maddening midseason week when the state athletic association started dismantling the team due to Chaney High School’s return to sports – thereby altering East’s enrollment status. It was an episode that – had it been Ohio State or the like – would have led ESPN and other news outlets.
In a great story last week in The Vindicator by Steve Ruman, East players offered an X-ray into the life they live and how that manifests itself in times like that crazy week:
“Most of us, we have had nothing but ups and downs our entire lives,” said senior standout lineman Christopher Fitzgerald. “We face a lot outside of football; we always have. So whatever happens on the football field, it ain’t going to bother us. It actually just brings us closer together and makes us stronger.”
Society likes to not make a lot out of sport and football as a parallel to life and humanity – except when life and sport collide in statements like that and seasons like this.
Sport is as intertwined in our life as science, as medicine, as government and so on.
We are measurable anywhere our instincts bubble and our actions burst – positively or negatively.
Anywhere that we obtain possible from the impossible – we can grow.
East maybe makes the playoffs; maybe not. But the season is a win regardless. A simple football season can show a community what is possible – and what one coach will attest is God’s will.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at email@example.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.
Support for East High from Vindy readers:
Todd, great story today about East Football. God Bless everyone involved. I am sure there are a lot of Valley residents rooting for them. Be well. Greg
Wonderful story on Brian.
He is a simply fabulous young man, who is a role model for the football players. I loved watching him and his cool during last Friday night's game against Warren Harding.
Thanks for a shot in the arm for kids who should now be able to see they are treated like humans also. Slowly, of course, but the team seems to be on steady ground for new beginnings.
I spent most of my life in the Ytown area but now live in South Florida. I read the Vindy daily via online. I just want to say thanks for the great story on East High School's football season. As a retired educator, it was nice to read a positive story on Youngstown City Schools. Thanks! George.
Awesome story Franko. Coach Marrow would be at the top of my list for coach of the year hands down. Putting players about life first and the rest will come. Deserving to definitely be in the playoffs. Harry.
As a 1970 graduate of East High School I just want to say thank you for your article today. Golden Bear Forever! Jim