Marietta overcame a nightmarish first 13 minutes during which it fell into a 12-0 hole and dominated the final three quarters in a 35-12 victory over Harrison in a Region 3-7A game Friday night in Kennesaw.

Marietta gave up a safety when it fumbled out of the back of the end zone on its first possession of the game, surrendered a 44-yard touchdown pass less than a minute later, and went down 12-0 when Harrison’s AJ Daniels kicked a 28-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter. Marietta started two of its first three drives inside its own 10-yard line and was outgained 115-15 in the first quarter.

The deficit could have been worse, as Daniels came up just short on a 51-yard field goal attempt that would’ve made it 15-0 midway through the second quarter.

That’s when the tide turned. Two plays after the miss, Marietta quarterback Tyler Hughes threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Christian Mathis. Hughes found Mathis again on the Blue Devils’ next possession, connecting for 33 yards to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Melvin Alexander that gave Marietta the lead at 14-12 with 1:35 remaining in the half.

It was all Marietta after that. Harrison ran just 10 offensive plays for 16 total yards in the second half while the Blue Devils added three more touchdowns.

“We had bad field position, we had penalties, we turned the ball over in the end zone,” Marietta coach Richard Morgan said. “You name it, we did it wrong for 12 minutes. And the thing was, they only came away with 12 points. If they had come away with 21 or 28 points, it’s a different story. But we held them to just 12, and that’s just two touchdowns for us. The next two series we scored quick and we’re up at halftime, and at that point we felt like we had the game.”

The victory put Marietta (5-3, 2-1) in control of its own fate in the race for the Region 3-7A title. The Blue Devils, who lost to North Paulding in the teams’ region opener two weeks ago, can capture their first region championship since 2005 by winning their final two regular-season games. That will be a tall order, however, as those games are against third-ranked North Cobb (7-1, 3-0) and No. 6 Walton (5-2, 2-1).

“Like I told the kids, we’re playing Week 9 with first place on the line,” Morgan said. “You’ll take that at the beginning of the year any time. I’ll be honest with you, we’ve lost three games by 11 points, three games by a couple of plays here and there. So the record is what it is, but we know it could be a little bit better because we’ve let some slip away. Hopefully we’ve learned from that.”

Hughes completed 16 of 25 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 42 yards on 11 carries. Mathis had 106 receiving yards on four catches. Camden Overton had seven receptions for 97 yards and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

Alexander had 124 yards rushing on 24 carries and added touchdowns rushing and receiving in the fourth quarter. He also put the exclamation point on the victory late in the game when he carried 13 times for 48 yards on the Blue Devils’ 10-play, 72-yard drive that ate up eight minutes and ended with Alexander’s third touchdown, a 3-yard run with less than a minute left.

“Being able to run the football and run the clock out the last eight minutes of the game … we’re a passing team,” Morgan said. “To be able to line up and dominate the line of scrimmage for the last eight minutes, that will serve us well moving forward.”

Harrison quarterback Jake Walling was 8-of-17 passing for 89 yards and a 44-yard touchdown to Brady Kluse. Akhnaton Shabazz led the running game with 36 yards on 11 carries.

Marietta - 0-14-7-14 - 35

Harrison - 9-3-0-0 - 12

First quarter

H - Safety (fumble out of end zone), 7:00

H - Brady Kluse 44 pass from Jake Walling (AJ Daniels kick), 6:08

Second quarter

H - Daniels 28 field goal 11:47

M - Christian Mathis 47 pass from Tyler Hughes (Renee Galomo kick), 7:22

M - Melvin Alexander 2 run (Galomo kick), 1:35

Third quarter

M - Overton 10 pass from Hughes (Galomo kick), 7:48

Fourth quarter

M - Alexander 6 pass from Hughes (Galomo kick), 10:17

M - Alexander 3 run (Ben Parrot kick), 0:57

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