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Marcus Furman: Taking The Test
By Paul Paterra

For every athlete there comes a time to prove whether or not he/she is a person destined for sports greatness. It's that test to prove that the athlete is ready to take the step into stardom.

Connellsville running back Marcus Furman may have had that test this past Friday night.

The junior running back was injured with five minutes remaining in the first half against Greensburg-Salem. To make matters worse, his Falcons trailed the team that was at the top of the Quad South standings, 26-7 at the time.

Furman did not play the remainder of the first half, but he returned to action in the second half. Did he ever?

In the final two quarters against Greensburg-Salem, Furman rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns to ignite the Falcons to a 29-26 win. The win helped put Connellsville in a four-way tie for first place in the Quad South.

"At halftime, he realized he hadn't played as well as he's capable of playing," said Connellsville coach Dan Spanish. "We challenged him to step up his abilities and let people know he can play in tough games as well as in games when we get ahead."

For the game, Furman (5-11, 175 pounds) tallied 150 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns. He became the first Quad-A back to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau this season with 1,089 yards on 108 carries (an average of 10.1 yards a carry).

"Marcus has the ability to break away, and he's been doing an outstanding job for us this season," Spanish said.

Furman - who also plays in the Connellsville defensive backfield and returns kicks - does have breakaway speed, and has been clocked as low as 4.38 in the 40.

"He has good vision and he has a good offensive line in front of him," Spanish said. "Basically our five interior linemen are back from last year. They do a good job blocking for him."

Even though Friday's game may end up being a turning point in Furman's career, it's not like he hasn't displayed potential.

As a sophomore, Furman rushed for 1,123 yards on 142 carries. During that 10th-grade season, he was fourth in the WPIAL, scoring 122 points (20 touchdowns and a two-point conversion).

Spanish noticed Furman's potential very early. He was one of the few freshmen Spanish placed on his varsity roster. He not only had Furman on the roster; he started him in the secondary as a ninth grader.

The Connellsville coach knew he had to groom someone to replace running back Phil Braxton - who is now at West Virginia University.

"We felt that playing him at the junior high level was not going to be to his advantage," Spanish explained. "We felt that with a year of experience at the varsity level, he would be able to step in as a sophomore and be our lead rusher.

Spanish said Furman compares favorably with some of the great Connellsville running backs of the past, like Braxton and Bronson Mickens, who starred for the 1994 team that advanced to the WPIAL semifinals.

"He's fairly comparable to those guys," Spanish said. "Time will tell where he compares with them when his career is complete."

When Furman's high school career is over, Spanish does see the possibility of his player moving on to the next level. One thing is certain; Furman won't have problems getting into any college academically, as he excels in the classroom

"There's a lot of things that have to be done prior to [playing college football]," Spanish said. "There's a lot of work ahead to get into that next level."

With one test met, Furman is probably ready to take on that test as well.