Teamwork, desire create Marengo dynasty

What is happening down in Linden is nothing short of remarkable. The little bitty private school with the big tradition has found a way to keep winning.

Marengo Academy has suffered its lumps over the years and the rumors of its demise have often been exaggerated. Still, there are certain areas of Longhorn life that never seem to be fazed by everything else going on in the world.

Case and point: softball. The Lady Longhorns spent years on the verge of winning their first AISA fast pitch championship only to be deterred year after year in the title game at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.

Todd Mathis finally helped his bunch break through that glass ceiling in 2010 with its first state championship win. As Mathis stepped away from a successful run and handed the reins to Danny Stenz, hardly anyone at Marengo batted an eye.

In the three seasons since, Stenz has continued to add to the legacy that Mathis, David Stokes and so many others helped to forge. Saturday, he led his team to a third consecutive state championship. All of this comes in addition to the junior high state titles Stenz won with MA softball and the state tournament runs he has made at the head of the girls basketball program in recent years.

What Danny Stenz is managing to do – he will tell you – has very little to do with him and has everything to do with the girls he feels privileged to coach. But what Stenz is doing is nothing short of astounding.

The little-known head coach who does this on the side and solely for love of the game or love of the girls or love of the school or, perhaps, the love of a hectic schedule, is starting to get some recognition.

Stenz earned West Alabama Watchman Coach of the Year honors in basketball. He also earned the Alabama Sports Writers Association AISA Coach of the Year award for the same sport.

While quantifying his career may not be entirely possible until he walks away for good, Stenz is working on a Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame caliber run.

Think about it this way. How many other coaches in the history of Marengo County have earned three consecutive state titles in any given sport? How many have led their team to a state title game in another sport? Now, how many have done it for little to no compensation?

Add all that to the fact that Stenz is not done yet and you have the makings of something potentially special.

Stenz will say that none of this is really because of him. But, the truth is, that Stenz is only a piece of a rare orange and white tapestry of volunteers, parents and a veritable traveling circus of supporters.

Currently, the school employs only one full-time coach: headmaster, athletic director and football coach Robby James.

Volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball, softball and their junior high counterparts are all left to willing helpers like Stenz, Eddie Edwards, Mike Henderson, Larry Huckabee and so many others.

And, somehow, The Big Orange Stampede has just kept running downhill, picking up speed and avoiding every potential stumbling stone along the way.

They may have to face teams like Edgewood, which hired its softball coach from Central-Phenix City and routinely poaches athletic leaders with robust resumes. The enrollment numbers may not compare to those of their competition. And some years may be a little leaner than others in certain sports. But, at the end of the day, their rallying cry is their mantra and it says all they ever need to say: They are Marengo.