By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
For a few moments early in its battle with Chamblee for the 6AAAA-Division A championship, Marist had trouble tasting its own medicine as the Bulldogs’ version of the triple option gave the War Eagles fits on the first drive of the game.
But the drive stalled. Marist blocked a field goal attempt and then did what they do best: play sound, fundamental defense, run the ball when they want to and throw when they have to. The formula that has worked for 27 years under head coach Alan Chadwick worked again Friday night, as Marist (8-1, 5-0), ranked No. 2, smothered Chamblee (8-1, 4-1) 24-0 at North DeKalb Stadium.
“We thought Chamblee was good enough to put a couple of scores on the board,” Chadwick said. “We had a little trouble with our assignments on the option at first, and they came out in some formations we hadn’t seen before. But our coaches did a terrific job of making the adjustments.”
After blocking the Bulldog’s 30-yard field goal attempt, Marist senior quarterback Myles Willis led the War Eagles on a methodical march of their own. After running the ball for most of the drive, Marist capped it with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Willis to Patrick Anhut to take a lead it would never relinquish.
The blocked field goal and subsequent score by Marist was the recurring theme of the night. Anytime Chamblee managed to build some offensive momentum, the War Eagles came up with a big play and then capitalized on the other end. Marist’s stout and deep defensive line – led by junior Kendall Baker (6-6, 270) and seniors Steven Wallace (6-3, 260) and Greg Taboada (6-5, 240) – as well as linebackers Jason Morris, a senior, and junior Michael Toner made the Bulldogs fight and scrap for nearly every yard.
Toner grabbed two interceptions to thwart Chamblee drives that had moved deep into War Eagle territory. The first one late in the third quarter, led to the final points of the night. Toner dropped into coverage and stepped in front of a quick timing route in the far flat at the Marist 23-yard line.
The War Eagles then drove 77 yards in nine plays, with Wallace – positioned at fullback – rambling in from 2 yards out to make the score 24-0.
Toner’s second interception turned out the light for good on Chamblee when he stepped in front of an errant option pitch by Bulldog senior quarterback Jordan Branch at the Marist 15-yard line, early in the fourth quarter.
Marist will now face the winner of Grady-Carver, Atlanta next week to decide the Region 6 champion.
As for Chamblee, the first loss of the year was a bitter one for the Bulldogs, who have seen a remarkable turnaround of their football program under first-year head coach Allen Johnson, a 1997 graduate of Chamblee who learned the option at the same place as Chadwick – East Tennessee State. He said he has no plans to allow the loss to linger in the minds.
“I told them, Monday morning at 6:30, it’s time to get back to work,” said Johnson, who noted that he hopes to build the Chamblee program in the mold of Marist. “We were able to celebrate eight victories and I let them celebrate those for 48 hours, then it was time to get back to work. Nothing has changed here. We lost, but 48 hours from now, it’s time to get back to work.”
Marist 7 3 7 7 24
Chamblee 0 0 0 0 0
M – Patrick Anhut 18 pass from Myles Willis (Thomas Andrews kick)
M – Andrews 30 fg
M – Griffin King 19 run (Andrews kick)
M – Steven Wallace 2 run (Andrews kick)