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McDonald A Natural Leader
Marlon McDonald connects with Brandon Prather on a touchdown pass to win the game. Elated, the two embrace, jumping up and down, smiles beaming on their faces. It looks like your typical touchdown celebration.

Then they go inside and wash up for dinner.

Fast forward 11 years and the two are doing it on a much bigger stage, under the Friday night lights, for the Stillwater Pioneers.
McDonald originally played alongside Prather as a running back/wide receiver for the Pioneers, but after Braxton Noble went down with an injury, he moved to quarterback. It was a move predicated on the defining quality of McDonald: leadership.

"Leadership is not something that's appointed it's just a thing about who are the guys that set the tone by the way they act and the way they play," coach Tucker Barnard said. "He's just naturally one of those guys."

McDonald is an explosive player. One of the things that makes him such a dangerous weapon is his running ability. He can just as easily gain 20 yards with his legs as he can through the air, which gives him an infectious confidence.

"When Marlon's on and he's excited and he's playing hard and playing well it raised the whole level of the team," Barnard said. "You can't say that about every guy. Some of that is positioning. You're placed in a position where you get balls thrown to you and you get the ball handed to you and things like that. It's just a personality thing kind of connected with all of that."

McDonald and Prather have lived in Stillwater their entire lives. Since elementary school, the two have shared a bond through sports. Their days consisted of incessant football. The two lived on the same street growing up, and after little league football practice was over-the two played on the same team-they would rush home and immediately go to the back yard. There they would play with their friends and cousins until they tired and then repeat the cycle the next day. In little league, McDonald would play a little bit of everything, including quarterback. That allowed him to get some early experience playing with Prather, and delivering him the ball.

"I was a good quarterback," McDonald said. "I grew up with Brandon throwing him the ball so we have so much good chemistry."

The two always figured they would end up playing football together in high school, but their visions of the future weren't as crystalline as they seemed at the time.

"Growing up, I don't think we knew he was going to be as good as he was-he was kind of fat," Prather said with a laugh. "(But) we knew we were gonna play football together all the way up through high school."

The relationship extended even past football, though. Growing up, they would always make a point to hang out. On Brandon's birthday in sixth grade, the two grabbed a carton of eggs and decided to have some fun and go egging. This particular time, however, they were caught-and then chased-by a man riding a motorcycle. It's a memory that will stick with them forever. It's those type of things that make the on-field chemistry between them that much stronger. Prather says that having his best friend on the field with him gives him a certain level of comfort that he doesn't feel from anyone else.

"Marlon's the type of guy you can just put in on Friday nights and he'll be a ballplayer, he'll go out and get the win," Prather said. "He's basically the best guy we've got back there to be quarterback."

On the field, the adjustment to quarterback has been bumpy for McDonald. Against Lawton he went 5-for-16 and threw two interceptions. Still, he has shown promise and fortitude, bouncing back from the Lawton game with his best game of the season, going 11-for-13 for 249 yards against Choctaw.

"He's doing a great job," Barnard said. "He's developing at a really fast rate which is exciting. He's getting a handle of the offense, we're starting to put him more in the passing game and get things going. We've been really pleased."

As he develops as a quarterback, he's also learning in other areas. Noble hasn't been absent with the team, offering tutoring McDonald on the quarterback aspect of the game. "He knows exactly what to do, McDonald said of Noble. "If it wasn't for him it'd be hard for me to run quarterback without him behind me telling me where to look."

Normally taking over the quarterback position would be a daunting task, especially for someone not accustomed to playing the position. But when Noble went down, McDonald reacted with aplomb. Since stepping in, he says that being the quarterback has imparted on him valuable lessons about becoming a better leader and teammate. Now, teammates look to him on offense.

But when asked of the biggest struggle the adjustment has given him, the 5-foot-7 McDonald pauses, laughs and then says, "I would say my biggest struggle is seeing over the offensive line. I'm kind of short and I can't really see so they're trying to mess around and see what I can do." His relentless work in practice and dedication to becoming better has won teammates over.

"He's a hard worker," said receiver Jordan Brown. "He always goes 110 percent in practice. He never gives up. He just keeps going. Even if he's he just keeps going and trying to get better as a QB. That's really good for us."

His improvement is proof that his hard work is paying dividends, and Prather says the team still has championship aspirations. With McDonald at the helm, this team has a shot.
11-3-14 by Chandler Vessels