Records are made to be broken - or that’s how the saying goes. And that’s exactly what White County Warrior Malaki Dowell did during the 2021 football season: broke records.
Since 1929, thousands of young men have worn the White County maroon and gray each fall to represent Sparta on the gridiron. The success of their schools and their student athletes is something the entire community has rallied behind. It’s part of the tradition of being a Warrior.
The 2021 season proved to be special. Fans were allowed back in the stands after a season in which attendance was sometimes limited and games were sometimes postponed or even cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team beat the rival Cookeville squad in a big way. And Malaki Dowell gained the attention of football enthusiasts, coaches, and media from around the state, being named the Middle Tennessee Athlete of the Week by the Tennessean Sports Writers poll.
But it’s the single season rushing record that Dowell shattered, keeping the Warrior community cheering all season long.
According to information provided from White County High School, the single season rushing record had been set at 1,500 yards. It was a record that had been set, in 1983, by then junior Dewayne Marcus, and, while several Warrior running backs had come close to Marcus’ record over the past 37 seasons, it hadn’t fallen - until now.
Dowell didn’t just break the record, he shattered it when, according to the football publication MaxPreps, he ran for a total of 2,029 yards in just nine games this season.
“It felt really good to break the 2,000-yard mark,” Dowell said about the accomplishment, adding that hitting the mark was actually a relief. “[It] had been a goal of mine since I started high school.”
Recently, Dowell had the opportunity to meet the previous record holder when Marcus presented him with a football in a “passing of the torch” type of ceremony.
“It was an honor to meet Mr. Marcus,” Dowell said. “It was an honor for him to acknowledge me and my accomplishment.”
The respect between the past and present Warriors is mutual, with Marcus saying his blood still runs maroon and gray and he still loves to see the Friday night lights, even if it’s from a different view.
“I was very honored to be included in this moment. It was a very humbling experience,” Marcus said about being invited to meet with the new, young record holder and added that the invitation brought back some memories from his own time on the gridiron. “The sky’s the limit for this kid – he’s a very talented athlete. Probably a lot better than I ever was. My blockers and line made some nice holes for me to accumulate that yardage, but Malaki seems to get most of it on his athletic ability.”
Dowell, however, much like Marcus when he talks about his record, gives credit to his team, saying the honor belongs to all of them.
“It is an honor to beat a record like that, and I would not have been able to accomplish this without my teammates,” he said.
Marcus told Dowell keeping that positive attitude and remembering that football is a team sport is going to keep him reaching new levels and adding to his list of accomplishments.
“You can’t do it on your own. It’s a team effort,” Marcus said, as he further stated he was proud of the entire 2021 White County football team. “These are great Warriors.”
As for Marcus’ feelings about handing over the football to Dowell, he said he was happy to do it and can’t wait to see what’s next for the new star in town. “I am absolutely rooting for Malaki.”
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