Class 4A: Unbeaten Marist and Jefferson set championship stage

GHSA First Round Playoff Roundups from Saturday

caption arrowCaption
GHSA First Round Playoff Roundups from Saturday

Top-ranked Marist went on the road to shut out 42-0 Bainbridge, with quarterback Champ Davis and fullback Andrew Mannelly rushing for a pair of touchdowns apiece in the semifinals matchup between the War Eagles and Bearcats. Davis found the end zone in the first and third quarters, and Mannelly rushed for a 12-yard touchdown in the second and another in the third to put Marist ahead 35-0 before it pulled its starters. Lincoln Parker also rushed for a goal-line touchdown in the first quarter for the War Eagles, and Preston Larmore capped the scoring with a 5-yard TD run with 8:14 remaining in the game.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 ranked Jefferson came out on top 42-35 in a back-and-forth battle with Benedictine behind a transcendent performance from junior quarterback Malaki Starks, who finished the game with 30 carries for 321 yards and four rushing scores (including the game-winner), a 32-yard passing touchdown, and an interception in the back of the end zone with a minute to play to seal the 42-35 victory. The Dragons traveled 243 miles for their first-ever matchup with the No. 4 ranked Cadets, and they entered the night averaging 271.4 rushing yards and 44.2 points per game. The Dragons defense has only allowed 8.27 ppg this year, but Benedictine’s offense found success early when junior quarterback Holden Geriner connected with sophomore Za’quon Bryan for a 46-yard touchdown on the Cadets’ opening drive. Set up by his own 45-yard run, Starks found the end zone for the first time late in the first quarter for the first of the game’s five ties. Junior Justin Thomas finished with a trio of scores for Benedictine, and his first followed a 45-yard reception by Trent Broadnax early in the second. Again, Jefferson responded. Paxton Corkery blocked a Benedictine punt and Kolton Jones capitalized with a 22-yard TD run for a 14-14 score at the break. The teams traded touchdowns throughout the third as well; Benedictine scored on Geriner’s 27-yarder to Kameron Edge one play after the Cadets recovered a Jefferson fumble on the opening kickoff and on a 13-yard TD run from Thomas, and Starks answered each with rushing scores from 5 and 6 yards out before his 32-yard touchdown completion to Spencer Neese on 4th-and-7 gave Jefferson its first lead of the night (35-28) with 10:20 remaining. Thomas’ third scoring run knotted the game again, but Starks broke free for a 65-yard go-ahead touchdown on the Dragons’ next drive to reclaim the lead, then intercepted Geriner’s potential game-tying pass. Jefferson advances to the finals for the first time since the Dragons’ 2012 championship season, and will face Marist following the War Eagles’ 42-0 rout of Bainbridge.