Lonnie Goldberg's six-yard pass to Marlon Jones with eight seconds remaining in last week's game at Madison, carried Marshall to victory and a second straight Great Falls District title. But in securing the championship and keeping its record perfect (9-0), Marshall once again beat the odds, typifying the team's unlikely success in recent years.

Several years ago, the Marshall athletic program began to feel its effect of declining enrollment at the Falls Church school. Robing the Statesmen of size and depth, it threatened their chances to be competitive in the football-strong Northern Region.

Just as tight as Jones clutched Goldberg's game-winning pass, the Statesmen have a grip as an area football power. And with one week remaining until the playoffs begin, Marshall is one of the favorites to win the Division 5 state championship in December.

What is the key to the Marshall's success? "I think the biggest thing is that most of the coaches here encouraged the kids to play more than one sport," said head football coach Neil Callahan. "We're in a situation that our kids are good athletes have to play more than one sport if we're to be competitive."

Since Callahan became head coach six years ago, the Statesmen have been more than just competitive. After a 2-8 record in Callahan's inaugural season, his teams have posted records of 5-5 in 1983, 6-4 in 1984, 7-2-1 in 1985 and 10-3 last year -- a sharp contrast to what the declining enrollment figures would seem to predict. Marshall is the third smallest of the Northern Region schools with 1046 students in grades 10-12. Conversely, Lake Braddock's enrollment is 2633. Langley, the largest Division 5 school, has 1487 students in three grades.

"We have really good athletes,' stresses Callahan. And with the encouragement to play more than one sport, Callahan feels the extra exposure to competitive pressure has been a plus for his team. Included on this year's team are six players that also play on the Statesmen's baseball team, which has finished second in the state two years in a row.

"A lot of these kids are going for their fourth regional championship in two years," Callahan said. "They play better in big games {with more exposure to competition}.

Callahan points to a 6-1 finish in 1984 as the beginning of the Marshall turn-around and specifically remembers one game that year as a sign that the Statesmen had made it over the hump. "When we beat Herndon out there when they had to win the game to win the district -- that was the beginning of it."

Before last season, when it became apparent to Callahan and his staff that his teams no longer had the size to overpower opponents, the Statesmen scrapped their power -- I formation for the wing -- T, and offense designed more to outwit than outmuscle.

Using misdirection and deception to confuse defenses, the wizard of the offense is quarterback Goldberg. 'He's a kid who's probably not the greatest athlete in the world but he finds a way to win every time," said Callahan. With Goldberg running the wing -- T Marshall has won 19 of 22 games.

And, because running back is one position at which Marshall has some depth, the Statesmen use several different runners in a game. Junior Joe Swarm leads the pack. At 6-foot, 186 pounds he has surprising speed and has rushed for 883 yards despite sharing time with Carroll Smith (450 years), Chris Suggs and John Robb.

In contrast to the offense, there is nothing deceptive about the Statesmen's defense. Led by safety Richard Kinsman (6-3, 190), linebacker Robbie Felts (6-0, 194) and linemen Tim Constantino (5-8, 189) and Ed Vinter (5-10, 192), the defense is based around speed and pressure.

"Defensively we're not the type of team that plays through people. We try to play around them -- it's a penetrating style of defense where we blitz a lot and keep on the pressure," Callahan said.

While Constantino and Vinter cause problems up front, opposing quarterbacks are forced to throw into an extremely quick secondary that features Kinsman, Donnie Howard, Anthony Williams and Jones, the 6-3, 180-pound sophomore Callahan calls, 'just about the best athlete I've ever seen."

Last season Marshall won the Northern Region championship in Division 6 (high enrollment shcools), despite being classified in the low enrollemnt Division 5. In the state semifinals Marshall lost to Salem, 10-6.

This year, under the Virginia High School League's modified format, teams must play within their designated classification. With Courtland, E.C. Glass, Yorktown and Salem all members of Division 5, Marshall's road to the state title will not be an easy one.

But instead of emphasizing last year's loss to Salem as incentive to this year's team, Callahan stresses the successes of a year ago.

"I think {the loss to Salem} will have no effect. None at all. But, the fact that we did so well last year will help us."

And of a rematch with Salem?

"They {his players} wouldn't mind that kind of opportunity," said Callahan. "But they're not hung up on that."