Star played through injury in final title push
The enduring question of Pleasant Grove’s 41-21 win over West Orange-Stark in the Class 4A, DII, state championship game is how much wider the final margin would have been larger and how much sooner would the game have been over with a healthy No. 21.
Through the first 13 wins of the season, senior tailback, cornerback and kick returner Chauncey Martin was a steady source of game-changing plays. He suffered a groin injury late in the quarterfinal against Melissa and was reduced to limited duty after that.
The explosiveness was gone – he had just five carries for five yards in the final – but because he was fundamentally sound on defense, he made smothered Mustang receivers and was in on a sack of Chaka Watson.
Then he limped off the field.
“Chauncey was a warrior,” said coach Josh Gibson. “He pushed through an injury in the final three playoff games. He knew what was on the line and he pushed his body through an injury to the limit to in those final games.”
It was not for nothing that district coaches voted Pleasant Grove’s starting tailback a first-team running back, the first-team punt returner, and a unanimous pick as first-team cornerback. He finished as the Hawks’ second-leading rusher, averaging 10.9 yards per rush for 1,039 yards and 15 TD’s. On defense he had 64 tackles and a pair of interception.
Before the injury, the Melissa game was a typical outing for Martin, the son of Michael and Tosha Martin. He rushed for 108 yards and the first two touchdowns of a 55-14 whipping. On PG’s first possession Martin hit the middle from the 34, ripped away from a defender at the 15 and danced into the end zone.
Thanks to a textbook block by wideout Carson Cox, Martin literally walked in from the 2 in the second quarter.
A week earlier, Against Celina, Martin was the key. He rushed for 116 yards and three TDs as the Hawks throttled the Bobcats, 33-14 to run their record to 13-0 and move into the state quarterfinals for only the second time in school history.
His performance was about more than numbers. He was the playmaker when Pleasant Grove most needed one.
Late in in the second quarter, with Pleasant Grove clinging to a 9-7 lead, Martin hit the corner around left end, juked one defender, stepped out of a tackle and somehow stayed in bounds as he sprinted down the sideline for a 67-yard TD run.
In the third quarter, with the Hawks facing third-and-10, Martin slashed through a gaping hole between right tackle and end and sprinted in from 26 yards out to make it 23-7.
The play is called 48 sweep. After the game ended Martin was, as is his custom, a role model of selflessness among a group of players who seemed always to put team success first.
“I had really good blocking,” he said.
In the area round against Aubrey Martin had scoring runs of 65 and 25 yards as the Hawks built a 28-7 halftime lead and never looked back.
In the Hawks’ first drive Martin exploded through the middle for 32 yards to set up a touchdown pass from Ben Harmon to Carson Cox all alone in the right corner of the end zone.
Martin later slashed through a gaping hole on the right side, cut back, juked a linebacker and sprinted 65 yards for the Hawks’ second score as time expired in the first quarter.
“Chauncey Martin is a playmaker,” Gibson said. “He can do it all: offense, defense, and special teams. As a running back, he has great balance, strength, and speed. He’s one of the best backs in East Texas. He’s a special person.”
Martin Tuesday signed with Texas A&M-Commerce, the reigning NCAA Division II champions.
Playing in coach Colby Carthel’s spread offense will be a test of whether the cream truly rises to the top. Last season the Lions carried more than 100 players on the roster. This week the school announced 52 signings.