Marist 64, Stephenson 12

High school football

Credit: For the AJC

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High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Last year Marist had one of the most historic runs to a state title in the history of Georgia high school football when the War Eagles rolled to a 13-0 COVID-19 shortened record, allowing just 48 points while scoring 479. No team came within two scores of them.

A year later, Marist looks primed to be right back in the Class 4A state title game again. The War Eagles, ranked No. 2, improved to 6-1, 3-0 in Region 6, with a 64-12 dismantling of young, depleted Stephenson team.

The game turned into a blowout in the second quarter. Marist led 15-6 after the first quarter. Stephenson (5-2, 1-3) took possession looking to narrow the gap, but in less than two minutes the Jaguars trailed 29-6.

First, sophomore Luke Harpring – sporting No. 15 on his jersey like his famous father, Matt – stepped in front of freshman quarterback Marte Barton’s pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. On Stephenson’s next possession, senior Quinn Gooding intercepted Barton and ran it back 22 yards for another pick six.

The War Eagle defense continued to stymie Stephenson’s offense and Marist added two more scores on offense before the end of the half. Sophomore fullback Jackson Hughes bulled his way in from one-yard out, and junior halfback Michael Schoenberg scored on a 26-yard run to push the score to 43-6, before Stephenson’s sensational band took the field to provide some positivity for the Jaguars’ homecoming, senior night crowd.

Missing several starters, Stephenson kept putting up a fight in the second half. On the opening possession of the third quarter the Jags attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-two at their own 35-yard line. But Marist’s punt return team sniffed it out and tackled senior Rahim Diarrasouba short of the line to make for a first down. Six plays into the War Eagle’s ensuing drive, Hughes scored again from a yard out to make the score 50-6.

“Unfortunately we threw those picks that they returned for touchdowns,” Stephenson head coach Marcus Jelks said. “We came in decimated on defense, so we knew we would have an uphill battle trying to slow them down.”

After starting the season 5-0 and 1-0 in the region, the Jags have now lost three straight and will have to beat Hapeville Charter on Thursday in order to make the playoffs.

“I told our players that they have to forget about this game now because we’re going to have to lay it all out in a short week,” Jelks said. “But I want us to learn from this game and continue to play with heart and passion like we did.”

As for Marist, head coach Alan Chadwick is looking for his team to remain consistent.

“We’ve built an excellent culture in our program,” Chadwick said, now in his 37th season. “From the seventh graders on up. Our kids and our coaches know our standard. Our kids work hard and play hard, and for us, it’s about playing up to our standard.”