North Cobb 28, Marietta 26

North Cobb's Jayden Walker (16) celebrates the Warriors 28-26 win over the Marietta Blue Devils with teammates Marcus Parker (66) and Zarrian Cook (14)  Friday, November 13, 2020 in Kennesaw. (PHOTO/Daniel Varnado)
North Cobb's Jayden Walker (16) celebrates the Warriors 28-26 win over the Marietta Blue Devils with teammates Marcus Parker (66) and Zarrian Cook (14) Friday, November 13, 2020 in Kennesaw. (PHOTO/Daniel Varnado)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

North Cobb clinched its first region championship in seven years and put the defending Class 7A champion on the brink of elimination from the playoff race with a 28-26 victory over Marietta in a Region 3-7A game Friday night in Kennesaw.

North Cobb quarterback Malachi Singleton scored the game-winning points on a 1-yard run, his fourth touchdown of the night, with 9:03 remaining in the fourth quarter. Marietta got one more possession but was forced to punt, and North Cobb ran the final 7:24 off the clock.

The region title is the fourth overall for North Cobb (8-1, 4-0) but its first since 2013. In the six seasons in between, no school other than Hillgrove or McEachern (with three titles each) won the predominantly Cobb County region. That includes 2019, when Marietta finished second to McEachern before going on a playoff run to the state championship. The victory also was the third this season for North Cobb against a reigning state champion. The Warriors beat 2019 Class 5A champ 28-14 on Sept. 11 and Class 6A champ Harrison 33-14 in a region game on Oct. 23.

The loss Friday would have extinguished Marietta’s playoff hopes were it not for Hillgrove’s loss to North Paulding. Marietta is now tied with Hillgrove and North Paulding for fourth place, with the three teams all 1-1 against the others. Marietta most likely needs another loss by Hillgrove next week against Harrison to have a shot at reaching the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

“I knew they weren’t going to lay down. They’re a great program,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said of Marietta. “We expected a dogfight, and that’s what we got. It’s not the season they expected, but their kids fought every single play, and my hat’s off to them. We’ve just got to do a better job of not putting ourselves in bad situations and getting down like that.”

Marietta (2-7, 1-3) got touchdown runs by quarterback Tyler Hughes on its first two possessions of the second half to turn a 14-6 deficit into a 20-14 lead with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter, but the lead changed hands three more times over the next seven minutes. Singleton scored on a 4-yard run with 16 seconds left in the third quarter, but Marietta answered with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Hughes to Christian Mathis for a 26-21 lead with 10:54 left.

On the ensuing possession, North Cobb drove 67 yards in six plays, the key one being a 33-yard pass from Singleton to Benjamin Hall that put the ball on the Marietta 1-yard line. Singleton scored the game-winner on the next play.

Singleton finished with 138 yards rushing on 30 carries and was 12-of-19 passing for 110 yards. The Warriors also got 52 yards rushing from Hall and 45 from Zarrian Cook. North Cobb ran for 265 yards and had 375 overall.

North Cobb was outgained 232-138 in the first half but had the lead, thanks in large part to two second-quarter interceptions by Jayden Walker that led to touchdowns about three minutes apart. Singleton’s 2-yard run gave North Cobb its first lead with 7:12 to play in the quarter, and his 11-yard run after the second interception gave the Warriors the ball right back at the Marietta 36, made it 14-6 with 4:10 remaining in the half.

Marietta drove 87 yards on 13 plays on its first possession of the game to take a 6-0 lead on a 2-yard run by Milon Jones. However, North Cobb blocked the extra-point, and Marietta spent the rest of the night trying to catch up with that missed point, successfully converting on one two-point attempt but failing on two others.

Hughes was 22-of-31 passing for 308 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. The Blue Devils finished with 424 total yards, including 58 rushing by Jones and 115 receiving on seven catches by Zuri Johnson.

“There is a lot of talent in the region,” Queen said. “There’s no stepovers. Every week is tough, and hopefully that’s going to prepare us for the playoffs. It was a very physical game, we had some guys go out with injuries, but we had some young guys step in and make plays for us.”

Marietta - 6-0-14-6 - 26

North Cobb - 0-14-7-7 - 28

First quarter

M - Milon Jones 2 run (kick blocked), 8:03

Second quarter

N - Malachi Singleton 2 run (Ben Moran kick), 7:12

N - Singleton 11 run (Moran kick), 4:10

Third quarter

M - Tyler Hughes 4 run (pass failed), 9:11

M - Hughes 1 run (Daniel Martin pass from Jalen Woods), 4:08

N - Singleton 4 run (Moran kick), 0:16

Fourth quarter

M - Christian Mathis 18 pass from Hughes (pass failed), 10:54

N - Singleton 1 run (Moran kick), 9:03

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