By Jeff Haws
For the AJC
Mistake prone on offense, Class AAAA No. 2 Marist rode its defense to a 16-0 victory over Columbia on Friday night at Adams Stadium.
The game turned early in the second half, when Columbia had its shot to get within a score after falling behind 13-0 at the half.
Sedrick Jefferson gave Columbia (2-3, 0-1 Region 6-AAAA) that shot with a 92-yard kickoff return to the Marist 7-yard line, finally putting the Eagles in a position to put points on the board.
Columbia moved to the 2 but was stuffed after that, turning the ball back over to Marist on its own 3-yard line.
That drive should have ended twice without points. First, the War Eagles punted from their own 26, but Columbia was penalized for having 12 men on the field, resulting in a Marist first down. Later in the drive, Marist (4-1, 1-0) was set for a fourth down at the Columbia 44, but a personal foul penalty moved the War Eagles to the 29 for another first down.
The possession ended with a 44-yard Joey Gogel field goal, a 10-point swing in favor of Marist.
“That was a big momentum swing for us right there,” Marist coach Alan Chadwick said. “They got the ball down to the (7)-yard line there, and the defense held them. They did a great job.”
They did so all night, helping to support an offense that scored just one touchdown, on a drive that started on the Columbia 2-yard line after a 67-yard punt return in the first quarter.
After that, the offense moved the ball but found the end zone elusive. Holding Columbia down made that not hurt quite as much.
“The defense definitely kept us in the game,” said Marist quarterback Myles Willis, who had 48 rushing and 68 passing yards. “Offensively, we can’t expect to play like that and beat other teams out there. Our defense played great, and that is a big lift for us.”
Columbia did have one last shot to get back in the game, and the Eagles nearly pulled it off.
Their drive started at their own 20 with 10:38 left on the clock, and Columbia had a first and goal at the Marist 5-yard line with 6:48 left. But, four plays later, two penalties and two negative plays had the Eagles staring at a fourth and goal from the 24, and they came away empty.
Marist held Columbia to 15 rushing yards. Columbia quarterback Andre Brown got 59 of his 83 passing yards on that last fourth quarter drive. Marist has beaten Columbia eight straight times, dating back to 1996, with five shutouts.
M 7 6 3 0 – 16
C 0 0 0 0 – 0
M – Griffin King 1 run (Joey Gogel kick)
M – Gogel 40 FG
M – Gogel 24 FG
M – Gogel 44 FG