The masked man

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 30, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Picture the harsh, cold light of the jail cell, the fidgety FBI trainee and the mass murderer who stands in the middle of his confines guarded by Plexiglas.

Hello, Clarice.

From the neck down, no one in their right mind would mistake Trinity Episcopal’s Marcus Archer with Anthony Hopkins.

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So why have Archer’s teammates jovially nicknamed him Hannibal &045; the character Hopkins played films &uot;Silence of the Lambs&uot; and &uot;Hannibal&uot;?

Look no further than the plastic mask Archer currently bears on the basketball court to prevent him from further damaging a face injury he received in a soccer game several weeks ago.

&uot;I call him mask boy or mask man,&uot; Marcus’ father Marc Archer said. &uot;He’s really surprised me. I thought he’d be timid, but I tell you what he’s tougher than I’d be. He really wants to play.&uot;

The sixth man on the Saints’ basketball team, Archer also played in goal for Trinity’s soccer team this year.

In a match against Parklane, just after the New Year, Archer came up in the penalty box to thwart an attempted goal.

The Parklane player tripped on his feet and planted an inadvertent knee in Archer’s left cheekbone, breaking it in three places, along with fracturing the orbital bone around his left eye.

&uot;I could see it coming,&uot; Archer recalled. &uot;I broke four places and they had to put a steel plate right underneath my eye.

&uot;It’s going to be fun walking through the metal detectors at airports.&uot;

Archer said he could not accept following doctor’s orders of no physical contact for six weeks.

Miss any more games than he had to, in this his senior year with the Saints (23-5, 10-0 MPSA district 7-1A) steamrolling to another district title and state title aspirations looking better than ever? Now who is the crazy one?

&uot;Marcus has a knack for getting crucial rebounds for us and developed a nice touch around the basket,&uot; Archer’s coach David King said. &uot;If we go all the way, he’ll be a big part of it.&uot;

So after the Archers grew tired of being pestered by their son, who craved

playing, for two weeks, they turned to the mask.

Marc Archer has been impressed by the poise his wife, Tanna, has shown in the three games since their son returned to the court.

&uot;For a mama, she’s done exceptionally well,&uot; Marc Archer said. &uot;There’s been a couple of times where he’s gone down and she’s gotten worried. But for the most part, she’s been pretty good.&uot;

Marcus Archer said it was difficult getting use to the protection in the first game, especially since the foam pads between the shield and his face prevented him from seeing his own dribble.

In Trinity’s win over Porter’s Chapel last week, Archer made just one of four free throws. On the one he sank, though, the ball grazed his mask and went in.

It was in that Porter’s Chapel game where an anonymous teammate first dubbed him Hannibal.

&uot;I don’t know if (the mask) intimidates people or if they’re laughing at me,&uot; Archer said. &uot;If I looked across at the guy I was guarding and saw this, I’d probably be messing with him.&uot;

Archer worries somewhat he might get hit again and do worse damage.

He is still a kid, though, and there is still an air of that bulletproof mentality every teenager sports.

And proof that the mask works came Tuesday night in the win over Tensas Academy. A Tensas player bumped into the left side of Archer’s eye, but the shield protected him fine.

&uot;It was a freak accident just like any other high school injury,&uot; King said of the initial affliction. &uot;He’s jumped back in an done well. He’d be a starter for any other school in our district and I appreciate him staying at Trinity to play for us.&uot;

Which is why, Archer feels he could not wait around to heal.

Archer said if the Saints do end up winning state, and had he chosen to recover instead of play, it would be a decision he’d regret forever.

&uot;I told the doctor I wanted to play as soon as my opened up,&uot; Archer said. &uot;I hate sitting on the sidelines. We have a great chance of winning state and I want to be a part of that.

&uot;If I had waited the six weeks the state tournament would be over.&uot;