BULLDOGS FOR LIFE: Former MHS players continue careers at Navarro College, propel Dogs to 24-21 Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl Championship

by dentonramsey


Former MHS players continue careers at Navarro College,

propel Dogs to 24-21 Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl Championship

By Denton Ramsey, Managing Editor


From Marlin to Corsicana, these guys have remained Bulldogs.

And through it all, they have remained champions.

After spending four years of high school together, sweating it out on the Marlin gridiron while kicking back during the Central Texas weekends, a number of Marlin High School graduates have continued their football careers at the next level.

Almost like a famous band’s garage-recording beginnings, the five-some of Benny Jones, Jeremy Sanders, Jonathan Thomas, Kevin Diles and Melvin Hopkins have sprouted from their roots in Marlin to the pigskin fields in Corsicana.

Navarro College Head Coach Ray Woodward heeded the words of Marlin High School Head Coach Jerry Malone – and it’s a good thing he did.

Two years ago, as an assistant coach on the Navarro football team, Woodward spoke with Malone almost daily about Sanders – currently considered one of the top junior college prospects in the state.

After originally signing with Baylor, Sanders soon found himself on the football fields in Corsicana – along with a handful of former MHS players.

Since first playing the game on the playgrounds as Bullpups, Marlin’s Navarro College five-some have done quite a bit of growing up since relocating in 2005.

Two years later, the former MHS standouts are making noise at Navarro, playing a large part in helping to propel the Dogs to a 9-3 record and a Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl berth.

Along with the spectacular play of Sanders as the play-caller, the receiving duo of Diles and Jones, linebacker Thomas and cornerback Hopkins played vital roles in Navarro’s 6-3 regular season record – as Marlin’s gridiron group accounted for five interceptions, 22 tackles, 33 receptions and two touchdowns during Navarro’s regular season campaign.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, the Dogs’ ‘Cinderella Story’ season was capped off with an amazing 24-21 victory over Georgia Military College (GMC) at Sam Parker Field, clinching a Navarro championship.

Many fans and students alike doubted Navarro would make it to the Dec. 8 bowl, especially after the Bulldogs began the season 1-2.

But soon after their dismal start, the Navarro Dogs won eight of their final nine games.

Along the way, Navarro College ran into the defending national champs at Blinn – twice.

And both times, the Bulldogs came out on top in lopsided victories.

Navarro also battled their way past the regular season conference winners at Kilgore to reach the fourth annual Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl.

After taking an early 14-0 lead, Navarro soon squandered that lead and found themselves in a dogfight to the finish.

With 10:26 remaining in the bowl game, the Bulldogs were on the short end of the stick as GMC held onto a slim 21-17 lead.

Seventy-one yards later, Navarro was stopped three times in the red zone prior to a blocked 22-yard field goal attempt with 7:22 left in the game.

A forced fumble on the ensuing possession led to a Bulldogs recovery, and on fourth-and-seven, Sanders scrambled for a must-have first-down.

Sitting on the GMC 43-yard line, solid work in the secondary forced Sanders to run the ball – as the Bulldogs quarterback found an open seam along the left sideline and scrambled nine yards for the Navarro first down.

Three plays later, Navarro faced a similar challenge as Sanders sat on fourth-and-eight.

And once again, Sanders used his feet – as well as his quickness – to pick up a Bulldogs first down on a 28-yard gain to the GMC four-yard line.

Shortly thereafter, the Navarro Bulldogs were chasing daylight on a game-clinching touchdown, 24-21.

From the looks of things, the Marlin/Navarro Bulldogs bunch do not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Come 2008, the nation may very well be seeing some new MHS faces making it to the spotlight of ESPN, as the Marlin Bulldogs pigskin program remains top-notch.

Sooner or later, recruiters will begin to take notice of Central Texas’ 2A powerhouse.

Until then, Marlin pigskin players have no problem remaining under-the-radar.

Because it won’t be long ’til next season’s NCAA MHS alumni underdog goes from zero to hero…



Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com