Love returns from injury, sparks team to quarterfinal berth
Above: Maranatha running back Mark Love.
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
PASADENA – When it comes to being a team leader, Maranatha High School running back Mark Love is no stranger.
Love was named one of the team captains for the Minutemen as a sophomore.
Now a senior, Love’s leadership skills have been more important than ever.
The talented tailback was injured during Maranatha’s season opener and missed three games early in the season, including a 56-14 loss to tonight’s opponent in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs, St. Margaret’s, in Week 2.
As he stood on the sidelines, two of Maranatha’s top players, quarterbacks Matt Shilz and Alex Clash, were lost to season-ending injuries against St. Margaret’s.
Love returned to the Minutemen offense just long enough to score the lone touchdown in a 7-0 victory over Rio Hondo Prep on Oct. 5.
“We didn’t want to use him unless we needed to and got in there and got about 10 or 12 touches and, all of a sudden, the mojo was back with him and he was good to go,” Maranatha coach Joel Murphy said.
Love has been doing everything in his power to keep his team going ever since.
“I’ve always considered myself as one of the top leaders of the team, being a captain since my sophomore year,” Love said. “I don’t think it’s been that much different, it’s just that I guess I have more of a leadership role now.”
His leadership has emerged on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Love has rushed for 1,124 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Defensively, he has collected 18 tackles, two sacks, one interception and a fumble recovery from his linebacker position.
“At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t playing defense and then, as we lost people, I’m back on defense now so it’s definitely more tiring,” Love said.
Love began his high school career as a wide receiver before splitting time as wideout and tailback later in his junior season.
According to Murphy, Love’s success can be attributed to what he sees.
“Ever since he was a freshman, he’s had incredible vision,” Murphy said. “He sees things that you wouldn’t even figure, and he sees them develop way beforehand.
“The players get a little more confident knowing that there’s someone on the field that can break it at any time.”
While Love may see things before they happen, opposing defenses do their best to keep him in sight, which isn’t an easy proposition.
“He has this uncanny ability to kind of not only stop on a dime, but to get that motor going,” Murphy said. “He is quick and one of those things about athleticism and speed is that you either got it or you’re chasing it.”
Among Love’s favorite memories at Maranatha is a come-from-behind 31-28 victory over Brentwood during the 2006 regular season and a 31-20 win over the Eagles in last year’s Northeast Division semifinals.
“We were down by like three touchdowns at halftime when we played them in league and came back to win the game in overtime,” Love recalled.
Love has attracted interest from numerous universities, including Cal Lutheran and Humboldt State, and is leaning toward Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
“It’s a really nice community and I have a friend who goes there right now and he just loves it up there,” Love said.
Murphy believes Love will be better suited on the collegiate level as a receiver.
“I think in college that he’s more of a natural slot receiver than he is a tailback,” Murphy said.
Still, Love has grown to enjoy the rigors of the running back position.
“I think it’s more challenging,” Love said.
Before Love can begin thinking about college, he and his team have the opportunity to do something special in what, he hopes, isn’t the final game of his prep career.
“Last game against them we had a whole bunch of mistakes and they got the ball past the 50 the entire game so they didn’t really have to do much,” Love said of St. Margaret’s. “If we can take care of business and play good football, we can beat them.”