With Marist on the Thomas County Central 32, Jackets junior Dee Reddick scooped up the fumble on an option play and ran in stride for a short gain, and the Jackets took over on their own 40. They’d hand the ball off to their workhorse, senior running back Trey Brenton, who carried the ball six consecutive times, spanning 48 yards and collecting three first downs while Marist burned all three of its timeouts.
From there, Thomas County Central kneeled the ball from the Marist 12 to leave with the win.
Both teams went scoreless in the second half.
“With the option, we knew they were going to come in and try to get the dive down plenty of times, so we knew if we took away the dive and make them go to the outside, the game was ours.”
In addition to sound play under Jackets second-year coach Justin Rogers, Thomas County Central fans made the four-hour drive, packed the visitors section and brought blowing horns, which in unison, mimicked the sound of a hornets nest and effectively muted Marist’s home-field advantage.
The Jackets defense held Marist to 135 yards on 36 carries.
After stopping Marist on the game’s opening drive, they chewed 5:30 of clock with a 16-play, 80-yard drive capped by sophomore quarterback Jaylen Johnson’s 1-yard run to make it 7-0 with 1:24 left in the first.
The Jackets would go up 13-0 with 4:44 left in the half on a 1-yard run by Brenton. The drive was set up by the Jackets’ first fumble recovery, which junior lineman Camron Brooks recovered on the Marist 39.
On the War Eagles’ ensuing drive, they’d score their only points of the game on a 12-yard run from junior quarterback Jack Euart, which came with 59.9 seconds remaining in the half.
The War Eagles defense forced two turnovers by the Jackets in the second half — an interception on the third quarter’s opening drive, and a fumble with 10:34 left — but punted after the first turnover and missed a 32-yard field goal after the second.
The Jackets were led by Brenton’s 184 yards on 27 carries.
Thomas County Central is in the semifinals for the first time since 2007. It last reached the championship in 2002, and last won it in 1997.
The No. 7 War Eagles, champions of Region 4, finished 12-2 and reached the semifinals for the first time since winning 4A in 2020, after reaching the quarterfinals the last two seasons.
Thomas County Central 7 6 0 0 — 13
Marist 0 7 0 0 — 7
T — Jaylen Johnson 1 run (Drew Renau kick)
T — Trey Brenton 1 run (kick failed)
M — Jack Euart 12 run (Beck Janki kick)