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Player of the Week: Darnell Edwards

If the John Essex Hornets are to pull off a victory this Friday against the third-ranked American Christian Patriots, they’ll need a big game from just about everyone on the roster.

But they’ll need an especially big game from junior leader and defensive cornerstone Darnell Edwards. Like most Hornet starters, Edwards plays both ways and lines up as both a hard-hitting linebacker and a shifty running back. He played a pivotal role in Essex’s 28-19 comeback win over the Marengo Panthers Friday, rushing for 145 yards on only 10 carries and helping clamp down on a Panther offense that scored twice in the game’s first quarter-and-a-half but only once the rest of the way.

“It felt real nice,” Edwards says of the comeback win. “We come to play. If we can join up as a team, and just play as a team, we can do the same thing Friday night.”

Edwards admits that the glory of being the ball-carrier makes for a little more fun than smashing opposing ball-carriers, but that the bottom line is always about what Essex has done on the scoreboard rather than what he’s done carrying the football.

“I like scoring touchdowns. I like having my name in the newspaper,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s a team thing. That’s what we have to do, play as a team…. We just have to go out and have fun, play our game, and let everything come to us.”

Despite the slight preference for playing tailback, Edwards also carries a love for the big hit and his intensity is one reason Hornet head coach Alphus Shipman has said that Edwards and junior linebacking counterpart Chris Jones are the “anchors” of the Essex defense.

Edwards, who says he’s been playing football “since sixth grade,” cites last year’s game against regional rival A.L. Johnson, a 22-16 victory in Thomaston, as the biggest win of his still-growing career. Why? Because that was when he felt the Hornets really “came together.”

“We were the underdog,” he says, “but we came out and played, and we ended up on top.”

That togetherness is one reason he says what he feels walking on to the field Friday nights is “just happiness.”

“I’m just glad I get to play football for John Essex,” he says.

He hopes to someday play football for a different team, that one a college varsity squad, but before al lthat is American Christian.

“We need to score first and get on top. If we can do that and contain their quarterback and their running back, ” Edwards says, “we’ll be all right.”

Editor’s Note: The weekly “Coach of the Week” feature will be available in Friday’s edition of the Times.