Refugio's Marchak carries forward tradition of success
March 21, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated March 21, 2012 at 10:22 p.m.
REFUGIO - Ed Marchak was surprised when Refugio athletic director and head football coach Jason Herring presented him with a state championship gold medal.
He visited the field house after the holiday break to congratulate the coaches for winning the Class 2A, Division II football championship.
He wanted to do so after the Bobcats' 36-35 state final win over Cisco at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in December.
But he left the field when he heard one of the celebrating players say, "Let's soak him."
The ice-cold water intended for Herring would have been too much for the 73-year-old Marchak's body to bear.
He was undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and one of the side effects was an adverse reaction to cold.
Not that Marchak was about to let cancer interfere with his passion for the Bobcats.
Very few days have gone by during the 31 years Marchak coached, been an administrator, or taught in the Refugio school district without him stopping by the stadium or the gym before meeting up with friends at Dairy Queen to talk about the Bobcats.
"I just enjoy watching kids," Marchak said. "I remember when my kids were here. I would get through with work and go over to practice. There's always somebody to talk with."
Marchak's sons John Ed, who graduated in 1987, and Kevin, who graduated in 1994, played football, basketball, ran track and participated in one-act plays at Refugio. He rarely missed an event.
But it would fair to say anyone who puts on a Refugio uniform is family to Marchak.
"You've got to show an interest in our kids and make them feel like they're something special," he said. "If they see that, they'll do anything for you."
Marchak has treated his students and players special since he got into coaching at George West where he was an assistant on its Class 1A state final team in 1963.
He did the same at Weslaco, New Braunfels and Sinton, where he coached for 11 years, three as the athletic director and head football coach.
Marchak came to Refugio as an assistant principal in the middle school and the middle school athletic director for coach Bobby Kelly in 1981.
He scouted for Kelly when the Bobcats won the Class 3A state title in 1982 and received a championship ring he still wears.
"That guy could see a play and knew what everybody did," Marchak said of Kelly, who died in 1996. "He could just memorize it. He would say, 'That guy did this' and sure enough we would get a film and that guy did exactly what he said."
Marchak became the principal at the elementary school in 1985 before accepting an offer to "retire" and work a half-day as an assistant principal at the high school in 2000.
He officially retired in 2008, although he continued to work as a substitute teacher.
Marchak, who likes to point out the Bobcats have missed the football playoffs only once during his tenure, currently helps with the inflatable Bobcat run-through tunnel at football games.
He met Herring shortly after he was hired and knew the coach would be successful.
"You could see that he was going to fit well with the type of kids here in Refugio," Marchak said. "They need someone who believes in them and they feel like he's taking up for them, but he's going to expect them to do it his way. They just love him to death."
Herring makes a point of incorporating Refugio's tradition into his program and uses Marchak as a sounding board, especially after the passing of long-time supporters Jack Sportsman and Alfred Marshall.
"Those are the guys I leaned on heavily," Herring said. "I want to know what the old-timers think. I value his opinion greatly. I love him and he loves the Bobcats. They mean the world to him. He makes it a priority to be at every game."
Marchak missed the Hebbronville and Kingsville Academy games last season and left early when it got cold during the Premont game, but it wasn't by choice.
The sharp pain he felt in his side in July that caused him to wake his wife, Paula, and have her drive him to Citizens Medical Center in Victoria wasn't an appendicitis like he thought.
He was poked, prodded and tested, before waking up to find tubes sticking out of every part of his body after being cut "from his naval to his breast bone."
Doctors removed a malignant portion of his large intestine. The ensuing treatments included taking four pills in the morning, receiving 2 1/2 hours of chemotherapy in the afternoon, and taking four more pills at night.
He became so dehydrated he had to check back in the hospital in October and his weight plummeted from 195 to 160 pounds.
Marchak's fingers and the bottom of his feet are still numb, but he could sense this was a special season and he wasn't about to miss any playoff games.
"I think winning a state championship is something they dreamed of since they were born," Marchak said. "We had won it before and people talked about it, but they had never been able to quite get there."
Marchak was in Arlington for the title game, and he'll be in Ingleside on Aug. 31 when Refugio opens the 2012 season.
"He's a big-time Bobcat supporter," Herring said. "He finds a way to be at everything. There's no question in my mind that he earned that medal. It probably wasn't near enough."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.