Marietta built a 17-point first-half lead, survived two costly miscues on special teams in the third quarter and then held on for a 17-9 victory over top-ranked Lowndes in the Class AAAAAAA championship game Saturday night at Georgia State Stadium.
Marietta, which won the Class AAA title in 1967, became the first Cobb County-based school to win two GHSA football championships. The only other Cobb schools to win state titles were Mount Paran Christian in 2014, Allatoona in 2015 and Harrison on Friday, when it beat Allatoona 20-7 in the Class AAAAAA final.
“Like I told them before the game, I don’t think anyone’s been through as much as we have,” Blue Devils fourth-year coach Richard Morgan said. “We played a bunch of freshmen [in 2016] and we took our lumps, but we were trying to build this thing the right way. And when kids come together, believe in each other, love each other and stay together as a family, you can accomplish anything.”
The sixth-ranked Blue Devils (13-2) scored all of their points in the first two quarters on two 2-yard runs by Kimani Vidal and a 26-yard field goal by Cooper Kipp.
Lowndes (14-1) got back into the game with the help of the two mistakes by the Marietta punting team. A mishandled snap on the Blue Devils’ first possession of the second half gave the Vikings the ball at the Marietta 49-yard line, leading to a 27-yard field goal by Jose Palacios that cut the lead to 17-3.
Later in the quarter, Lowndes partially blocked a punt deep in Marietta territory and gained possession at the 14-yard line. Four plays later, Jacurri Brown threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Ferringhetti Brown on fourth-and-12 to make it a 17-9 game (the Vikings’ extra-point attempt was partially blocked) with 11:09 remaining.
Lowndes got possession one more time with a chance to tie the game, taking over at its 20 with 8:07 left, but Marietta’s Peter Warrick intercepted a fourth-down pass at his 2-yard line with 4:42 to play.
Marietta was able to run out the clock with seven consecutive runs by Vidal that covered 50 yards.
Vidal finished with 67 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Quarterback Harrison Bailey was 22-of-31 passing for 271 yards. Arik Bailey had 11 receptions for 146 yards.
“It’s a great feeling, the best feeling I’ve ever had. They’re great players, they’re my brothers, and this is the best way of going out,” Vidal said of his fellow seniors.
Marietta wasted no time seizing control. The Blue Devils drove 79 yards in 14 plays on its first possession, taking 6:19 off the clock, and scored on Vidal’s first touchdown run. Bailey was 7-of-8 passing for 54 yards on the drive.
Vidal scored his second touchdown early in the second quarter to make it 14-0, and Kipp kicked his field goal with 21 seconds left in the half.
Lowndes - 0-0-3-6 - 9
Marietta - 7-10-0-0 - 17
M - Kimani Vidal 2 run (Cooper Kipp kick), 5:41
M - Vidal 2 run (Kipp kick), 9:27
M - Kipp 26 field goal, 0:21
L - Jose Palacios 27 field goal, 1:52
L - Ferringhetti Brown 16 pass from Jacurri Brown (kick blocked), 11:09
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