Marks’ return strengthens Hawks

Woodland senior Justin Marks drives to the basket during a game against Derby Jan. 16 in Beacon Falls. Marks, who was injured late in the football season, recently returned to the Hawks’ lineup. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Justin Marks’ varsity sports career at Woodland has been an injury-riddled one.

Just last winter as an emerging star for the Hawks’ basketball team, he broke his collarbone taking a charge in a late-season game against Derby. The one-point victory in that game put Woodland in the state tournament, but the Hawks had no shot to make a run in the Division V playoffs without him.

In the fall, Marks stood out at the top deep threat for quarterback Tyler Bulinski in the Hawks’ best football season in five years. But while scoring a late touchdown against Ansonia, something happened again.

Marks didn’t know what it was, but an injury around his hips rendered him unable to walk back to his own sideline. His season was over.

“Right as I was scoring, it just popped, and it was over,” said Marks, who eventually found out that the injury was a fractured pelvis sustained when he was hit near the goal line. “I didn’t know until it was almost fully healed.”

Marks was forced to miss the Hawks’ Thanksgiving eve rivalry game against Seymour and the state quarterfinal loss to Bloomfield.

“It was awful,” Marks said. “I get hurt all the time. States for football, that doesn’t happen often. That sucked because I loved it.”

It also forced him to miss the first few weeks on the basketball team, where he’s a co-captain and was set to be the third option in the Hawks’ offense. Checking in at well over 6 feet tall, his return after Christmas was a welcome addition for coach Tom Hunt.

“He brought us to the next level that we knew we could get to,” Hunt said. “He’s another big body who can go inside. He can handle the ball on the outside. He’s versatile. We know if he gets fouled, he’s going to get it done from the line. We trust him bringing the ball up. He’s got a cannon and he can throw the ball up the court in the press at any time.”

Marks scored 22 points in his first two games back, even though he didn’t feel as though he was at his best.

“It felt great that I was back out there, but I was rusty,” Marks said. “I wasn’t in football shape anymore. I had to work hard and get my mind right. It’s all in my head.”

He’s been a consistent scorer since, tallying eight points each in recent games against Torrington and Sacred Heart. Marks had 14 points versus Ansonia on Friday and followed that up with nine the next day against Kennedy. Three of Woodland’s four victories have come with Marks back in the lineup.

“It’s been a big difference,” leading scorer Zach Bedryczuk said. “His height and rebounds — he makes everything better on the offensive side and the defensive side. He’s another threat on offense. He can pass the ball. He does everything for us, and he does everything coaches ask of him.”

Marks hopes that since now the Hawks are at full strength, they can make a late-season run so he can finally play in a state tournament game.

“We didn’t start off as well as we wanted to, especially losing to some of the teams we beat last year,” Marks said. “But we’re playing our best right now.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version published in the Jan. 31 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on games played after press time.