McEachern, which had been kept out of the end zone for three and a half quarters Friday despite four previous trips inside the Marietta 30-yard line, finally got in when it mattered most.
The Indians’ Carlos Del Rio-Wilson scored on two 1-yard quarterback sneaks in the final 8:07, and McEachern stopped Marietta’s two-point conversion attempt with 19 seconds remaining to beat the fifth-ranked Blue Devils 14-12 at Northcutt Stadium.
The victory puts No. 2 McEachern (7-0, 2-0) in the driver’s seat in the race for the Region 3-AAAAAAA championship. It was the Indians’ second consecutive win against a top-10 region opponent, after beating No. 7 Hillgrove 19-14 last week. McEachern is tied with unranked North Cobb (6-1, 2-0) for first place and plays the Warriors on Nov. 1. Marietta (5-2, 1-1) fell into a tie for third place with Hillgrove (6-1, 1-1).
“Right now, we’ve still got some work out there to do, but I like where we are,” McEachern coach Franklin Stephens said. “The challenge now is ourselves day in and day out. What are we going to do, are we going to come out and mess around in practice or are we going to come out and practice and focus and say these are the things we need to do to become champions? That’s all, just challenge each other every day.”
Del Rio-Wilson’s second touchdown run gave the Indians a 14-6 lead with 1:52 to play, but Marietta answered. The Blue Devils drove 68 yards in six plays, capped by Harrison Bailey’s 6-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds remaining. Marietta’s two-point attempt failed, however, when Bailey was forced out of the pocket and threw incomplete.
Trailing 6-0 late in the third quarter, McEachern went on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Del Rio-Wilson’s first touchdown to give the Indians a 7-6 lead with 8:07 to play.
Three times in the first half, the Indians moved inside the Marietta 30-yard line but came away with no points. The Indians lost a fumble at the Marietta 27 on their second possession and turned the ball over on downs at the 27 early in the second quarter.
McEachern also missed a 32-yard field goal with 3:25 to play in the half. Marietta then drove to the McEachern 32, but Bailey was stopped for a 4-yard gain on fourth-and-11 with less than a minute to play in the half.
On the opening possession of the third quarter, the Indians moved the ball from their 20 to the Marietta 27, but an interception by Peter Warrick Jr. ended the drive.
“I was a little disappointed in the first half that we just couldn’t knock it in,” Stephens said. “Then we came out in the first drive of the second half and were moving it down the field, doing what we want, and then there’s a turnover. But I said, ‘Let’s not get upset, let’s not flinch, and let’s focus. Defense, go get us a stop, and then let’s get back on offense and go hammer again.’”
McEachern finished with a 374-256 advantage in total offense. Del Rio-Wilson was 18-of-25 passing for 166 yards and had 78 of his team’s 208 rushing yards on 17 carries. Jordan Simmons ran for 94 yards on 19 carries. Dacari Collins had 77 yards receiving on seven catches.
Marietta opened the game with a 70-yard scoring drive that used just three plays and 31 seconds. Bailey threw a 65-yard pass to Ricky White on the Blue Devils’ second play from scrimmage, and Kimani Vidal ran it in from 5 yards out on the next play. The extra-point attempt hit the crossbar, however, and Marietta led 6-0 with 11:29 to play in the quarter.
Bailey was 12-of-20 passing for 197 yards. White caught three passes for 93 yards, and Vidal rushed for 75 yards on 13 carries.
McEachern - 0-0-0-14 - 14
Marietta - 6-0-0-6 - 12
Mar - Kimani Vidal 5 run (kick failed), 11:29
McE - Carlos Del Rio-Wilson 1 run (Denzell Moore kick), 8:07
McE - Del Rio-Wilson 1 run (Moore kick), 1:52
Mar - Harrison Bailey 6 run (pass failed), 0:19
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