The comeback kid

After a broken wrist derailed his 2012 season, Marquis Seamon is healthy again for white-hot Father Judge — and he’s got plenty of help.

  • Thaenrat has been a pleasant surprise as a sophomore for the Crusaders. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Back and better than ever: Through seven games for Father Judge, Marquis Seamon has rushed for 574 yards and has nine total touchdowns. He’s also helped mentor sophomore Yeedee Thaenrat, who has 689 yards and 10 TDs of his own. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • All smiles: Thaenrat (center) and Seamon (second from right) celebrate with teammates following Judge’s 28-17 homecoming victory over Archbishop Ryan. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO

Last year, Mar­quis Sea­mon flew to Ire­land for a foot­ball game and re­turned home with a sea­son-end­ing frac­tured wrist as his souven­ir. 

Fath­er Judge’s start­ing ju­ni­or run­ning back watched from the side­line as his team sputtered through a dis­ap­point­ing four-win sea­son. One of the few bright spots for the Cru­saders was Sea­mon’s re­place­ment, sopho­more Samir Bul­lock, who ex­ploded for a 1,000-yard sea­son so im­press­ive that it led him to trans­fer to rival Arch­bish­op Ry­an, where he wouldn’t have to split car­ries with Sea­mon, the re­turn­ing in­cum­bent. 

Sea­mon entered the 2013 sea­son, his seni­or cam­paign, with a clean slate. Gone were Bul­lock and the broken wrist, while in stepped new head coach Mike McKay with an of­fens­ive sys­tem tail­or-made for the elu­sive run­ning back’s skill set. 

But then along came Yeedee Thaen­rat, a sopho­more with a name that stands out al­most as much as his ex­plos­ive abil­ity on the foot­ball field. Thaen­rat has been a rev­el­a­tion for the re­boun­ded Cru­saders, and through the sea­son’s first sev­en games (five wins), his 89 car­ries are just one short of Sea­mon’s total. 

Now, to an­swer the ob­vi­ous ques­tions: yes, Thaen­rat’s sud­den back­field party-crash­ing has been an un­ex­pec­ted sur­prise for every­body with­in the Judge pro­gram (in­clud­ing Thaen­rat him­self), and no, Sea­mon has had no prob­lems in shar­ing his seni­or sea­son car­ries with the sopho­more.

That, said Sea­mon, would not be the Fath­er Judge way.

“Coach Vern (de­fens­ive co­ordin­at­or Vern Beale) al­ways preaches pride,” Sea­mon said. “A pride, that’s a fam­ily. It’s not about what you have; it’s about what we all have. That’s just us. It’s how we are, like lions at­tack­ing. We are lions, and we are go­ing to at­tack as a pride.”

That meta­phor has come to won­der­fully per­son­i­fy Judge’s sea­son to date. Sea­mon spoke fol­low­ing the Cru­saders’ enorm­ous 28-17 win over nemes­is Arch­bish­op Ry­an on Sat­urday at North­east High School, one that filled those wear­ing light blue jer­seys with cham­pi­on­ship as­pir­a­tions. It was also one that elim­in­ated the much bal­ly­hooed Raid­ers (4-3 over­all, 0-3 di­vi­sion) from play­off con­ten­tion in the Cath­ol­ic League AAAA Di­vi­sion after such a prom­ising non-league start.

Stand­ing dir­ectly to Sea­mon’s right was Thaen­rat, a per­man­ent grin plastered all over his young face. Not even an hour earli­er, both left their im­prints all along the out­come, much like they’ve done all sea­son. The cru­cial win, com­ing on the heels of a 17-16 heart­break­er to La Salle the week be­fore, one the Cru­saders knew they should have had, pro­pelled Sea­mon, Thaen­rat and com­pany in­to a ti­tan­ic show­down at St. Joseph’s Prep this week­end (Sat­urday, 7 p.m., at Ply­mouth-White­m­arsh High School). 

Sea­mon, who watched help­lessly last sea­son as Ry­an snapped a six-game los­ing streak to Judge on this very field, car­ried 10 times for 39 yards, hauled in a seem­ingly im­possible-to-grab 28-yard touch­down pass from QB Zach Car­roll in the second quarter and cor­ralled the game-clinch­ing in­ter­cep­tion on de­fense.

“It’s the best feel­ing ever,” Sea­mon said of bring­ing the coveted home­com­ing trophy back to Judge for an­oth­er year. “This mo­ment was spe­cial. I wouldn’t change any­thing for this.”

That in­cludes shar­ing the spot­light with his new part­ner-in-crime in Thaen­rat, who was also bril­liant on both sides of the ball. He car­ried 21 times for 139 yards, in­clud­ing a 42-yard TD run with 1:47 to play that bur­ied Ry­an for good; earli­er in the fourth quarter, with Ry­an hold­ing a 17-14 lead and driv­ing down the field, Thaen­rat stepped in front of Raid­ers’ QB Mark Os­taszewski’s pass and picked it off at the Judge 21, serving as a co­lossal swing in the game’s mo­mentum.

Stay­ing calm in crit­ic­al game situ­ations is one of many les­sons passed down from Sea­mon to Thaen­rat.

“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Thaen­rat said. “I look up to him. We have each oth­er’s backs. It’s a broth­er thing. We’ve been com­pet­ing against each oth­er on op­pos­ite sides since little league, so I’ve al­ways looked up to him. Now that we’re on the same team, it’s one goal and one dream, just dif­fer­ent shoes.

“Mar­quis, he’s al­ways quiet, no mat­ter what the score is. His ac­tions bring the team to­geth­er. He’s taught me to be humble. I was the type of guy who al­ways talked trash dur­ing a game, but now I look at him, and he’s al­ways calm while mak­ing plays. I put that in­to my own game, which has made a huge im­pact.”

The two-back sys­tem has worked re­mark­ably well for McKay and his staff. The num­bers are start­lingly sim­il­ar, with Sea­mon car­ry­ing 90 times for 574 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and six rush­ing scores, with Thaen­rat rush­ing 89 times for 689 yards (7.74 YPC) and nine tal­lies. Not only that, but as mem­bers of Judge’s de­fens­ive back­field, they are tied for the team lead with three in­ter­cep­tions each, help­ing lead a de­fense that re­cor­ded three straight shutouts from weeks 2-4 and is al­low­ing just 11 points per game.

How has the com­bin­a­tion worked so seam­lessly?

“It’s just chem­istry. He’s like my little broth­er,” Sea­mon said. “I’m proud of him and the way he’s stepped up. At first, I wasn’t really ex­pect­ing too much from him, but he’s pro­gressed in all areas. I think he can be one of the best play­ers to ever play in the Cath­ol­ic League. Right now, he’s already show­ing that.”

Thaen­rat, who be­lieved he had the abil­ity to con­trib­ute on last year’s team as a fresh­man, al­most left Judge, but the com­bin­a­tion of Bul­lock’s de­par­ture, along with not want­ing to aban­don his team­mates, com­pelled him to stay.

“Last year, I was up­set,” he said. “I knew I could play, but I felt I didn’t get a shot at the big­ger level. I took that in­to this year, that de­term­in­a­tion. I was go­ing to leave, but then I said no, I can’t give up on my team. Everything from last year, all the an­ger, I brought that in­to my game. I just put everything to­geth­er. But I am sur­prised at my­self, like, ‘Wow, look at the play­er I am now!’ ”

The fact that Judge van­quished Bul­lock, who gained 106 yards on 20 car­ries but was kept out of the end zone, gave the rush­ing duo even more reas­on to smile. Bul­lock still leads the Cath­ol­ic League with 1,179 yards and 12 rush­ing scores, but on a day when the ju­ni­or nev­er really got a chance to fully turn on the jets, two proved to be bet­ter than one.

“On the field, we’re not friends with any­body,” Sea­mon said when asked about his former team­mate. “I think there was a little beef go­ing on dur­ing the week, but we just proved it on the field that we’re the best team. Now, nobody can talk, ex­cept for us.”

Count McKay, a former Judge foot­ball play­er and 1976 gradu­ate of the school, as one of Sea­mon and Thaen­rat’s biggest fans.

“Mar­quis has been im­press­ive since the day I met him. He is very un­selfish and will do any­thing for us and the team,” the first-year head coach said. “I didn’t know what ex­actly to ex­pect from Yeedee, just that he was an out­stand­ing run­ning back and a hit­ter on de­fense.

“But I be­lieve that once they knew how we were go­ing to try to use them, they fed off that one-two punch they bring. Mar­quis is the ma­ture, work eth­ic, prac­tice-right type of lead­er; as a res­ult, Yeedee has be­come a bet­ter prac­tice play­er. Now, he un­der­stands the work that needs to get done dur­ing the week. We do put both of them in roles that re­quire a lot of re­spons­ib­il­ity. They both have re­spon­ded tre­mend­ously. I watch them both and see the joy in their eyes when they and the team suc­ceed. I’m both for­tu­nate and proud to have them.”

Judge (5-2 over­all, 1-1 di­vi­sion), which still has to play the Prep and Ro­man be­fore the play­offs, seems to be fir­ing on all cyl­in­ders as the reg­u­lar sea­son end draws near. The Cru­saders came with­in a point of beat­ing La Salle, and now fully be­lieve they can topple the Hawks (who downed La Salle 35-28 last week­end) and really muddle the top of the di­vi­sion.

For Sea­mon and Thaen­rat — and the six 100-yard rush­ing games between them — it’s been the ride of their lives, one they hope is only just be­gin­ning.

“I’m hav­ing the best sea­son I’ve ever had,” Sea­mon said. “I’m proud of these guys. They’re play­ing their hearts out, work­ing their butts off every day in prac­tice. I wouldn’t trade them for noth­ing. This is a fam­ily. I’m glad I’m healthy now and we can go out there and prove to people that we’re not the same team that we were last year.”

And while Thaen­rat will un­doubtedly be the fea­ture back next sea­son after Sea­mon gradu­ates, he doesn’t want his run­ning mate to go any­where just yet. He’s still learn­ing too much and hav­ing too much fun. Plus, the duo still has goals they still need to ac­com­plish, to­geth­er as one.

“I’m hav­ing a blast,” he said, that grin still flash­ing ear-to-ear. “I’m in a great en­vir­on­ment right now. The coaches, I love them. I love my team­mates. I’m just hav­ing the time of my life right now.” ••

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