Snyder puts hopes of playoff berth on shoulders of QB Baker
by Jim Hague
Sep 09, 2018 | 499 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TOUGH TIGERS – Snyder’s football team will be as strong as the offensive line, shown here, protects standout quarterback Jahleel Baker. From left are Jordan Meggett, Joshua Leander, Malachi Simmons, head coach Ray Marshall, Ibrahem Husain, Christopher Bando and Norian Wilson.
TOUGH TIGERS – Snyder’s football team will be as strong as the offensive line, shown here, protects standout quarterback Jahleel Baker. From left are Jordan Meggett, Joshua Leander, Malachi Simmons, head coach Ray Marshall, Ibrahem Husain, Christopher Bando and Norian Wilson.
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The Snyder High School football program has gone through a complete transformation ever since Ray Marshall became the head coach in 2014.

How about this for proof? The numbers are staggering.

Before Marshall took over the program in 2014, there was a 12-year span that featured seven different head coaches and a whole lot of losing.

In the 12 years (2003 through 2014), prior to Marshall’s arrival, Snyder was a collective 12-100 with five winless seasons. There was a 29-game losing streak that stretched over four years.

But Marshall decided to take the gamble and took the job in 2015, taking over a program that no one believed anyone could win at. Bill Belichick could have been hired and the future Hall of Fame coach of the New England Patriots would have won perhaps two games. It was a place that was doomed for perennial failure.

Marshall, the former Lincoln High School and St. Peter’s College standout who spent a decade as an assistant at his alma mater, was almost a total miracle worker, only failing to walk on water or teaching deaf mute girls how to read and communicate.

The Tigers won five games in 2015, five more in 2016, earning a berth in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III state playoffs, the first playoff berth for the school since 1979.

Marshall was named the Hudson Reporter Coach of the Year in 2015 for leading the Tigers out of the abyss.

The Tigers were headed for another state playoff berth last year, posting a 4-2 through six games. But then disaster struck and the Tigers lost their final four games to Paramus, Dumont, Englewood and Columbia to finish 4-6.

And the program that didn’t win more than two games in a season for over a decade felt a sense of disappointment for winning only four games. If that’s not a dramatic turn around, a seismic shift of reality, then Vesuvius never erupted and San Francisco never opened its Golden Gates in 1906.

“We didn’t like the way we finished,” said Marshall, who is poised to begin his fourth season with the Tigers. “We started going backwards. We didn’t make the states [playoffs] and that was a disappointment. It’s not the direction where we wanted to go.”

Marshall has set simple goals for the 2018 season.

“We want to win the opening game of the season,” Marshall said. “We still haven’t won an opener.”

The Tigers faced Newark West Side at Untermann Field in Newark to begin the season. Their second game was against Orange at Bell Stadium in Orange.

But after three straight years of competitive football, the Tigers no longer have a negative reputation around the state.

“People known that we’re going to come and fight you,” Marshall said.

Marshall is optimistic for the coming season because more kids have come out to play football at Snyder than have in the past 20 years.

“We’ve added depth,” Marshall said. “We have about 50 kids in the program. We’re deeper than we have been. We have a great freshman class coming in. We have a program now. It’s not just a team. I feel good about that. Hopefully we’re moving in the right direction. We want to build some character. The seniors have to continue this legacy.”

Leading the way is senior quarterback Jahleel Baker (6-4, 205), a two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree. Baker, considered to be one of the top signal callers in New Jersey and a big time college recruit, threw for 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago.

Baker has shown an incredible increase in his maturity.

“Every day, he’s showing me something,” Marshall said. “He’s learned to become a student of the game. He’s constantly asking me questions. I think the sky’s the limit for him. College coaches are coming in to see him. He wants to take that next step in his life. I think as long as he keeps progressing, we’re going to be fine. I don’t want to go into battle with any other kid. He’s always been my guy. I think now he’s accepting the process.”

The starting running back is junior Jalen Tucker (5-11, 190), who could evolve into one of the premier backs in Hudson County.

“He’s a very smart kid,” Marshall said. “He reminds me a lot of Nolan [Burns, the former Snyder standout running back now playing at Roberr Morris College]/ He’s just a little more athletic than Nolan and a little faster.”

Another running back is junior Malik Cooley (5-11, 200), who in Marshall’s eyes, “is more of a power back,” Marshall said. “He’s also a great blocker.”

The top receiver is senior Edwin Williams, Jr. (6-2, 190), who also has a ton of potential.

“He is Baker’s favorite guy,” Marshall said. “He’s a good big target for Baker.”

Senior Jawuan James (6-0, 170) is another top receiver. The tight end is junior Donnell White (5-11, 200), who is Baker’s cousin and resides in the same house with Baker.

The offensive line features junior Norian Wilson (6-4, 265) and senior Jordan Meggett (5-11, 240) at tackle, seniors Joshua Leander (6-2, 26) and Kenny Livingston (5-11, 250) at guard and junior Malachi Simmons (5-11, 245) at center. Leander moves from tackle, where he played last year, to guard.

“They’ve all worked hard in the offseason to get ready for this year,” Marshall said. “Baker only got sacked a handful of times. They take pride in making sure their quarterback doesn’t get hit.”

The defense features most of the same personnel. White and Livingston are the defensive ends, with Meggett and Leander at defensive tackle. Tucker and Williams are the outside linebackers with Cooley as the middle linebacker.

The cornerbacks are senior Tykhil Greene (5-10, 165) and sophomore Malachi Mallard (5-10, 160), with senior Fuquan Holmes (6-2, 170) and James at safety.

“I think we have a little bit of a bulls’ eye on our backs now,” Marshall said. “A lot of people have expected us to fall on our faces, but we haven’t.”

Marshall is excited that the last regular season game of the season is against Lincoln, pitting him against his alma mater and the place where he learned how to become a coach. That game is slated for Oct. 27.

“It’s the mentor [Marshall] against the teacher [Lincoln head coach Robert Hampton],” Marshall said. “We’re getting that rivalry back and that’s exciting.”

It’s exciting that Snyder’s football team is relevant once again. – Jim Hague.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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