When Mark Duckworth was hired as Marietta's head boys basketball coach prior to this season, the former Warren assistant knew he would eventually return to face his former players and coaching mates.
Duckworth's first trip to Vincent Tuesday night didn't yield successful results on the court, as the Tigers dropped a 70-47 decision to the Warriors. However, Warren head coach Blane Maddox believes his assistant of 14 years has the orange and black going in a positive direction.
"They play hard," Maddox said. "They're well-conditioned. They're disciplined.
"It's exactly what I thought they'd be."
Duckworth's Tigers currently sit at 4-4 on the young season, just three wins away from matching last season's total.
After coaching Warren's JVs to a 21-0 record and being named the Ohio Division II JV Coach of the Year last season, Duckworth vowed that, under his direction, the Tigers would be "disciplined and structured" and
"everyone will understand their role."
So far, despite a few hiccups, that seems to be the case.
"He's gonna get them settled in there," Maddox said.
"They'll keep getting better and better. They'll be a different team when we go there in February and they'll be a different team if we have to play them in the tournament."
Over recent years the Marietta - Warren rivalry has become grossly one-sided in Warren's favor, reaching a peak last season when Warren defeated Marietta twice by a combined 50 points. The Warriors' season ended in Columbus at the state tournament while the Tigers bowed out in the first round of sectional play.
When walking off the court of the Schottenstein Center last March, neither Duckworth nor Maddox knew they would be opponents less than a year later, but perhaps it's for the best.
"I hope all the fans at Marietta are patient with him," Maddox said. "I know he'll do the right things in that program and they'll be rewarded sometime down the line."
For over a decade, Duckworth was instrumental in developing players that would go on to produce at the varsity level for Warren. Though serving in a slightly different role with the Tigers, he is hoping his guidance can lead to the year-in, year-out success at Marietta that he helped the Warriors reach.
No matter what happens with the Marietta-Warren rivalry this year and in the future, one constant that will remain between the two programs is mutual respect.
"It was great to see some smiles from old friends (Tuesday) night," Duckworth said. "The people at Warren have treated me first class for many, many, many years. I have a lot of special memories here.
"We (Marietta) will continue to work and get better. We get another shot at Warren, we may play them twice in a tournament situation. We'll get back to work (Wednesday.)"
Jordan Holland is a sports writer for The Marietta Times. He can be reached at 740-376-5449 or at email@example.com.