A few days into October, and the weather was still hot. Not triple digits, but in the mid-90s. More than hot enough for a football player to get a good sweat going in practice.
Goodyear Desert Edge wide receiver Elijah Marks headed to the sideline, took a few quick swigs of cool water and was ready for an interview.
He always seems to have a smile on his face, rain or shine.
There are plenty of reasons for Marks to smile these days.
The Scorpions are 5-0 and looking more and more like a team that is capable of returning to the Division III state championship game.
And Marks has had a lot to do with that.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior has emerged as one of the top pass-catchers in the state. He has 46 receptions for 1,005 yards and 13 touchdowns, already well within range of his junior totals from 2012 – 56 catches for 1,339 yards and 18 TDs.
“Last year, he was a basketball player playing football. This year, he is a football player,’’ said Desert Edge coach Rich Wellbrock.
“He doesn’t really look the part. You don’t realize how fast he is, how strong, or how high he can jump until you see him on Friday nights.’’
Wellbrock recalled a recent game against Surprise Shadow Ridge where Marks ran a hitch near the sideline, caught the ball, broke one tackle, split three defenders and shook another tackler at the 5-yard line before scoring.
Marks played junior-varsity football as a sophomore and played basketball as some of his siblings did. He played varsity football last season, and felt more and more comfortable as the season went along. He worked a lot with quarterback Anthony Hernandez, a friend since early childhood.
“Playing wide receiver was a little difficult at first, but felt easier the more I played,’’ Marks said. “I worked on reading defense, my footwork and running my routes.’’
This summer, Marks continued to improve when he played in passing competition at such places as UCLA, Arizona State, Surprise and Peoria Sunrise Mountain. He was working with Hernandez again.
“We’ve got really good chemistry,’’ Marks said. “I have confidence that he is going to put the ball in a spot where I can catch it.’’
Scoring a touchdown, Marks said, “feels good. Nobody was able to catch you and now you’re in the end zone. It puts a smile on your face.’’
He thinks the Scorpions have a good chance to go on another long run into the playoffs.
“We have a good offense and a good defense, too,’’ he said. “Our offensive line has been blocking great, in the running game and the passing game. The other receivers (including Ismael Murphy-Richardson) have played well, too. They can get open, where the defense can’t concentrate on covering any one guy.’’
Wellbrock said that Marks has improved considerably in the classroom, and Marks added that the coaches make it a point to emphasize the studies, that the players can get help if they want/need it.
Marks said that though his siblings concentrated on basketball, everyone knows that his future is in football, although he expects to play hoops again this winter.
Wellbrock said Marks already has scholarship offers from Idaho and New Mexico, and Marks hopes to see more by season’s end. Then he will make a decision on his next step.
“My family appreciates what I do,’’ Marks said. “They have inspired me.’’
With that, it was time to get back to practice. Marks turned and jogged away. He had a smile on his face, of course.