2015 Football: Tactikos a ‘super aggressive’ presence in Handley’s young secondary

Handley's Marcus Tactikos, center, runs off the field during a recent practice at the Handley Bowl. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – To hear longtime Handley football coach Tony Rayburn tell it, there may not be a player on the Judges’ roster with a bigger motor than Marcus Tactikos.

A three-year varsity player with experience at safety and wide receiver – one of the few veteran Judges returning in 2015 – Tactikos is described as “super aggressive” by his head coach, a player who would run through a wall if given the opportunity.

“He goes full speed, 100 percent,” Rayburn said recently. “He’s tough, he’s super aggressive and our concerns are just hopefully he doesn’t get hurt because he just goes after you.”

Tactikos’ health will be a top priority for Handley this fall given his value, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. He is the only player in the secondary with any varsity experience, and Rayburn said Tactikos is “no doubt” the Judges’ leader in a defensive backfield filled with new faces.

“We’re looking at a lot of people, he’s trying to teach them how to line up,” Rayburn said. “It’s tough … but he’s really led by example and he’s been a great leader. For us to have any success this year he’s got to be on the field.”

With more durability on his mind, Tactikos set a goal for himself in the off season to bump his weight up to 185 pounds, a target mostly brought on by his experience playing in the secondary last season.

“It was hard for me because I was little last year,” Tactikos said. “… I was like 150 [pounds] running at running backs that were like 205, so I had to get low and I couldn’t stop my feet or nothing.”

Tactikos didn’t quite reach 185 pounds despite Rayburn assisting him in developing a diet that required Tactikos to consume 8,000 calories a day, he said. While lifting regularly in the winter and during track season in the spring, Tactikos hit about 175 pounds at one point in the offseason before he “got lazy” late in the summer, he said, and lost about half of that added weight, eventually starting Handley’s fall camp at around 165 pounds.

But Tactikos’ mentality was rejuvenated at the start of fall practice when he stepped right in and grabbed hold of leadership responsibilities and drew praise from Rayburn.

“A lot of the guys look up to me, and even in practice Coach is like, ‘So far the only starter we have is Marcus. If you need any help ask Marcus.’ He was like, ‘Marcus inspired a player yesterday, who are you going to inspire today?'” Tactikos recalled. “… It makes me work a lot harder.”

Last season as a junior, Tactikos recorded 25 tackles and snagged two interceptions from his safety position. This being his third varsity season, Tactikos said he expects those numbers to rise in 2015.

“I’ve definitely gotten a lot faster and just my reaction to different plays and how the receiver cuts,” Tactikos said. “… I can kind of feel where they’re going now, like what they’re going to do, because I’m a receiver too so I know all that leaning and stuff, the head bobbing.”

Rayburn said Tactikos covers well in the secondary, and his athleticism and ability to go up and get the football is a strength on both sides of the ball.

As a receiver last season, Tactikos took a backseat to players such as Dontae Mauck (887 yards receiving) and Justin Washington (410 yards receiving) – who each earned Division I scholarships to Virginia Military Institute and Delaware, respectively – and hauled in only two passes for 31 yards.

Although Handley doesn’t figure to pass as much now that unproven senior quarterback Matt Elliott has taken the reins from graduated four-year starter Will Dearing, Tactikos expects to be the Judges’ top receiving target in 2015.

“During the whole offseason, like every week we would go to the field – me, [Elliott] and some receivers – and just throw around, do some routes and get used to it,” Tactikos said.

The Judges were disappointed with their 4-6 record in 2014 and figure to have plenty of work to do in replacing the production lost from the graduation of 16 seniors, but Tactikos said the Judges are confident they can still make improvements on that record this fall.

“I think we’re going to do better than we did last year. We’ve got a lot of kids with talent this year,” Tactikos said.

“We’ve got some talent. It’s just raw talent.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com