Marist 23, Stephenson 0

High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

High school football

Stephenson-Marist was expected to be a tight game for a region championship, between two undefeated teams ranked in the top five, each featuring physical running games on offense and defensive units that have been extremely inhospitable to their opponents this season.

But in the end, Marist, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, easily imposed its will from the start and cruised to a 23-0 win over No. 4 Stephenson. The win essentially gives the Region 6 championship to the War Eagles (6-0, 3-0), their first region title since 2017.

It was the fourth shutout in six games for Marist, which has yielded just six points all season, the product of two field goals. The War Eagles held the Jaguars (4-1, 3-1) to 42 yards of total offense. Stephenson senior RB Terrance Guffie, who had rushed for more than 100 yards in two games this season – including 126 yards on 12 carries in a 15-7 win over Mays last week – was held to just 12 yards on 6 carries.

Meanwhile, Marist senior RB/LB Lincoln Park rolled for 111 yards on 12 carries, including both of the War Eagles' touchdowns. Of Marist’s 262 yards of offense, 253 of it came on the ground.

From the outset, Marist dominated. The War Eagles started the game with a 13-play drive that ate up more than half of the first quarter. But the Stephenson defense, which had given up just one offensive touchdown this season, stiffened and forced Marist to settle for a 36-yard field goal by junior Dawson Jones for a 3-0 lead.

Stephenson’s first drive was indicative of what would occur the rest of the game. The Jaguars couldn’t run the ball effectively, and even though they made a couple of plays in the passing game, they couldn’t sustain drives.

On third-and-11 from their 34-yard line, Jaguar sophomore QB Sedrick Hill hit junior Rahim Diarrassouba for a completion and a first down. But the play was nullified by a penalty for having an illegal man downfield. Stephenson would not cross midfield into Marist territory until the fourth quarter of the contest.

The War Eagles pushed their lead to 6-0 on a 44-yard field goal by Jones midway through the second quarter.

Plagued by poor field position all night, Stephenson began the ensuing drive on its 10-yard line after a poor kickoff return. A pass from Hill to junior Cordell Andrews moved the ball out to the Jaguar 27-yard line. But after an illegal procedure penalty, a loss of seven yards on a running play, and an incomplete pass, Hill was picked off on third-and-long by Marist safety Wright Formisamo along the far sideline at the Stephenson 38-yard line.

On the first play of the War Eagle possession, Park bounced off left tackle and sprinted into the end zone for a 13-0 Marist lead at the half.

After forcing Stephenson to go three-and-out on the first offensive possession of the second half, Park and the War Eagles put the game away for good. On Marist’s first play from scrimmage, Park sidestepped a Jaguar defender in the middle of the line, and raced into the end zone for his second 38-yard touchdown of the night and a 20-0 lead.

Jones ended the scoring with a 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.