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Former Bengal trying to resurrect Taft team

PEDRO -- Mike Martin is a long way from his days in the Super Bowl as a Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver.

Martin was a member of the 1988 Bengals team that reached the Super Bowl. Today, he's in the coaching profession in the Cincinnati area at the high school level.

Martin is the new head football coach of the Cincinnati Taft Senators. Although the school has more than 400 boys, last year only 15 players arrived for fall football workouts and the squad was disbanded.

A total of 35 players are on this season's roster but only seven are seniors. The absence of football has not only hurt numbers but experience as well.

The shortcomings were magnified Saturday night when Taft, a Division III school, lost to Division IV Rock Hill 38-0 in the first game at the new Redmen Stadium.

Martin knows his has an uphill challenge in front of him.

"To say these guys have a long way to go is understated," Martin said. "We're trying to teach them what to do, and I'm talking about basic things."

After one player, a defensive lineman who made the tackle came running to the sidelines.

Martin asked, "Why are you coming out of the game?"

The player answered, "I made the tackle."

An incredulous Martin replied, "That's just one play. You don't come out. They still have two more downs to go."

Players had trouble holding onto the football. The Senators had nine fumbles and never did field a kickoff or punt cleanly.

"We have to learn to block, tackle, and run. We didn't play our positions and we didn't know what to do. And we fumbled too much," Martin said of his team's performance.

Despite the problems, Martin remains determined to resurrect the program.

"We'll keep trying. We'll keep working and try to get better," Martin said. Jim Walker & Ryan Walker/The Ironton Tribune