Marshall seniors prepare for final Homecoming game



As the Marshall University football team prepares for its Homecoming game against the University of North Texas Saturday at 3:30 p.m., the team’s 18 seniors will experience the event for the last time.

Head coach Doc Holliday said his veteran players have showcased a sense of accountability and a competitive attitude, which has elevated the program.

“We got a core group of older kids that have been through it and have taken ownership of the team,” Holliday said. “They hold all these young guys accountable for doing the right thing and getting themselves prepared to play. You get that kind of attitude with the group of kids we’ve had the last three years, and you got a chance to be pretty good. They won’t let us lose, those kids refuse to lose, and that’s a good thing.”

The collective senior class has made its mark on the Marshall program over the past three seasons with the Herd accumulating a 28-12 overall record, including bowl victories each of the past two seasons and a Conference USA Championship last season.

Several of this year’s seniors were integral components of last season’s success, such as running back Devon Johnson, linebacker D.J. Hunter and right tackle Clint Van Horn. Johnson ran for 1,767 yards and totaled 19 touchdowns last season, Hunter made 80 tackles and posted 5.5 sacks and Van Horn started all 14 games.

Johnson and Van Horn earned All-Conference USA first team selections last season, while all three players were named to this season’s preseason all-conference squad.

Other senior members of the team also came into this season with experience such as guard Sebastian Johansson and safety Taj Letman who had started 25 and 27 games, respectively, in the previous two seasons.

However, several of the team’s seniors entered this season still seeking to make an impact on the program and make their names known throughout the team’s fan base.

Senior linebacker Evan McKelvey, for example, has emerged as the team’s leading tackler this season after overcoming ACL tears in 2012 and 2014. In addition to his production on the field, McKelvey said he’s become a vocal leader for the defense as well in his final season.

“I’m just starting to breakdown every huddle now,” McKelvey said, “just getting everybody intense for the game because everybody needs a leader on the defense. The fact that I’m more outspoken now, I think everybody sees that and they want to go along with it.”

Senior nose tackle Jarquez Samuel has also taken a lead role on defense, totaling 27 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, four batted balls and a fumble recovery for a touchdown this season.

Samuel said there will be a different sort of emotion on Homecoming Saturday, but said the team dealt with a similar situation last week against Florida Atlantic University with several of the team’s players returning to their home state of Florida.

“I saw (the emotion) this past week,” Samuel said. “I think we handled that really well because all the families are down in Boca (Raton, Fla.). You got to hangout with the family, but when it was time to get serious, everybody locked in and got the game feeling going, so I don’t think its going to be any different.”

Senior wide receiver Deandre Reaves, who leads the team in receiving yards and total yards, said with it already being Homecoming week, his final season is progressing faster than he might like.

“I kind of wish it would slow down a little,” Reaves said. “It has gone by way too fast, but it has been exciting. It’s a little bitter-sweet at the same time.”

Bradley Heltzel can be contacted at [email protected]