When it comes to talking football with Coach Wayne Jamison, chances are good you’ll have to go some time before the word passing game and quarterback come into the conversation. If you’re talking former player Bobby Marra with Jamison, that dynamic will take a complete 180.
Jamison goes from reluctant to – for him – almost exuberant. The adjectives and comments are almost as plentiful as offensive formations during his 27 years were lacking. It’s very clear that when it comes to #22 on the 40 for 40 list presented by The Prescription Shop, that Marra certainly has the endorsement of Jamison.
“If you’re talking about quarterbacks, Bobby Marra is number one. Bobby was the closest thing I had to a passer because he passed the ball,” Jamison said. “The rest of them were throwers.”
Of course, Jamison’s affection for Marra is shaped by more than the former player’s work ethic and practice habit that Jamison was quick to laud. Marra was the team leader on the 1979 Class AAA state championship squad that pulled off one of the biggest upsets in playoff history
against a Parkersburg team that few thought could be beaten. And in that game, Marra was one half of one of the biggest plays in Bridgeport’s regular and postseason history as well as serving as the catalyst in perhaps the biggest drive in the Indians’ postseason history.
As for the play in question, Bridgeport managed to find itself trailing 6-0 to Parkersburg in the Class AAA semifinal contest when Marra would air one out to teammate Brad Minetree. Minetree climbed the ladder over the Big Red defender to set the stage for the game-winning score.
“That was a crucial play, and it was a miracle play. The best way to describe it is simply that it was a championship play,” an analyst helping to shape the 40 for 40 list said.
Marra, though, was more than just a one-trick pony in the drive. Earlier in the same drive, he had connected with teammate Pat Hull on a critical 14-yard pass play. Then, after
the pass-and-catch to Minetree, Marra carried the ball over the final one yard for the game-tying six points. Following Jon Pinti’s point-after kick, the Indians had enough points on the board to beat the unbeatable Parkersburg squad.
“It wasn’t surprising looking back because Bobby Marra was the general on that team; he was the glue,” the analyst said.
Like any good general, Marra didn’t just serve as a leader on offense. He was also a leader on defense, another fact not lost on Jamison.
“He’d also be one of the top defensive players as far as defensive backs go. I can show you film on him where you wouldn’t see him in the picture and then you’d see a receiver break free by himself and Bobby's nowhere to be found. Then, at the last moment, you’d see Bobby’s hand come in and knock the ball away,” Jamison said. “He was always in the right place at the right time on defense.”
Marra didn’t just star in football, as he was a standout in all three sports while at Bridgeport High School. Yet, it’s likely his time on the football field most remember; and for good reason.
That 1979 team, which competed in Class AAA by choice due to having Class AA enrollment numbers, finished with a 13-0 record – the first team to ever win that many games in a season. Along with that win, the Indians took – for them – what was a rather anti-climactic ‘AAA’ title game win against St. Albans by a
20-7 score. It was, of course, anti-climactic considering the game the Tribe won prior to that outing.
“Honestly, I don’t know if he ever made a mistake. He was just so intelligent,” the analyst said. “He knew what Jamison expected of him and I think Jamison had a lot of trust in Bobby.”
If you hear what Jamison had to say about what he didn’t mind Marra doing, then you know for certain there was trust.
“He was probably one of the smartest players I ever had as well,” Jamison said. “If I wouldn’t get a play in, he’d call it and it was always a good call. I’d probably have let him call every play because he’d almost certainly call the same thing I would have called.”
Marra didn’t end his playing time on the football field once his high school career was complete. He had a nice career at West Virginia Wesleyan. Although you won’t hear Marra complain, Jamison said he’s bugged – to this day – that Marra wasn’t given a bigger role on those Bobcat teams he was part of.
“He didn’t get to play as much as he should have, which tells me that the (coach) didn’t know what he was doing. If there were better players than Bobby Marra on that team then they should have been conference champions all four years he was there,” Jamison said, with a bit of a disgusted voice. “You know, though, I remember talking to Bobby about it at the time and he had the right attitude, like he always did. He said, ‘I don’t mind. They’re paying for my education.’ That was just Bobby. He saw the big picture.”
Marra is one of the highest-ranked players on the 40 for 40 list that did not make first team Class AAA All State. Although he received multiple honors for his play, the first team nod was not one of them. Marra was named to the Class AAA All State second team. He was also a first team All-Big 10 Conference selection on both offense and defense, while capturing first team honors on both sides of the ball on the All-Monon Valley squad as well. Marra was also a first team selection to the All-Harrison County team that season.
“He absolutely should have been first team selection,” the analyst said. “Call it whatever you want, but you can definitely call it a mistake.”
Editor's Note: In the top two photos, Bobby Marra is shown getting yardage running the ball from his quarterback position against the Lincoln Cougars, who were coached that season by long-time Bridgeport High School assistant coach Larry Burner. Bottom photo shows Marra getting some instruction from Wayne Jamison on the sideline. Photos in this article are courtesy of the Bridgeport High School journalism department and teacher Mrs. Alice Rowe. Connect-Bridgeport would like to thank Mrs. Rowe for her cooperation in assisting with the 40 for 40 series and providing archives necessary to move the project forward.
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