Union County

Marvin Ridge High lacrosse team rallies to coach in tough times

A Marvin Ridge High T-shirt bears the cliche that has special meaning for the school’s lacrosse team.
A Marvin Ridge High T-shirt bears the cliche that has special meaning for the school’s lacrosse team. COURTESY OF DAWN PORTA

The cliche, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is used by politicians, coaches, singers and even parents.

The phrase has been attributed to and associated with Joseph Kennedy – father of former President John F. Kennedy – and legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne.

But the statement has had special meaning this season for Marvin Ridge High lacrosse coach John Dodd and the team.

When Dodd was growing up, his mother, Betty Dodd, would say those words to motivate her son, and the words were never more meaningful to Dodd than when his 90-year old mother was diagnosed with pneumonia midway through this lacrosse season.

Betty Dodd never recovered; she died April 26.

Her words, however, lived on for Dodd and his team.

The front of the team’s white T-shirts bore the Marvin Ridge High logo, while the back read, in blue letters: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

“I told my team that I am the man that I am today because of my mother,” said Dodd, who missed the first Marvin Ridge game he can remember against Weddington on April 24 because of his mother’s condition.

“When I missed that game, my team told me they were going to win it for her and for me, and they did,” 14-6 against Weddington, he said.

“When I gave them the shirts going into the playoffs, I said this is something I think is important not just for my mom, but I want them to think what all their moms do for them. I told them you aren’t just playing for my mom, but all the others moms, dads and for yourself. That’s what they responded to.”

Marvin Ridge team co-captain Jack Rich said, “This gave us one more person to play for this season. Instead of just playing for ourselves, we were playing for coach Dodd, for his mom and the entire Marvin Ridge family.”

The team did not lose a game from April 17 to May 23, outscoring opponents 112-25 over the final seven games entering the 1A/2A/3A state championship. The Mavericks won their third straight conference title and 24th consecutive league game in the process.

Marvin Ridge was at its best in the playoffs, as they rolled to the state title game for the second straight season.

The Mavericks ultimately came up one win short, losing to Cardinal Gibbons, 13-12, in overtime in a heartbreaking state final.

The loss didn’t take away from the special feeling and the run the team made.

“We know how tough this entire season was for coach Dodd because of everything he went through with his mom,” said senior defender Dugan McDermott. “But he kept pushing through it all and never gave up on us, and that really inspired us to play even harder for him.… We were disappointed that we couldn’t win it all for him, but we know that we all have a lot to be proud of for everything we accomplished this season. This season was a great journey.”

Dodd, in his seventh season as Marvin Ridge’s head lacrosse coach, said the support of the entire Marvin Ridge community was overwhelming, as he received cards emails and texts from players, parents and friends.

“It was extremely difficult for me to focus on lacrosse at times this season,” Dodd said.

He pointed out that his assistant coaches, John DeLucia and Kevin Mack, and Marvin Ridge middle school coach D.C. Duplessis also played huge roles.

“But my mom always taught, when you make a commitment, you keep that commitment. I never quit a team in my life and I wasn’t going to do that now,” Dodd said.

“My mom always wanted me to be happy. She knew I loved being on the practice field or at a game.… Just thinking about what my mom would say, including the quote, really kept me going.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.