The Marietta Blue Devils beat the Walton Raiders 36-24 to earn the fourth seed in the 3-7A playoffs.
In order for the reigning state champs to make the playoffs, they had to beat Walton, and needed Harrison to beat Hillgrove. Walton had already locked up the two seed in the playoff, so the Raiders were playing for momentum.
With such high stakes, there was a big-game buzz reverberating throughout Northcutt Stadium. Both the teams and the fans brought playoff intensity to with them, and that energy maintained for the entirety of the game.
Marietta opened the game aggressively. This was a must-win game for them, and it showed via their play.
Walton received to open the game. Immediately, Marietta forced, and recovered, a fumble on the kickoff return. The Blue Devil fans exploded when they found out they had recovered the fumble.
With favorable field position, Blue Devils’ quarterback, Tyler Hughes, connected with Milon Jones for a touchdown. The Blue Devils quickly took a 7-0 lead, and the home crowd continued to roar.
Marietta dominated the first half. Defensively, they were stout, as they held Walton to a field goal in the first half. Offensively, Tyler Hughes threw two touchdown passes and ran for one as well.
The crowd grew more boisterous with each defensive stop and each scoring drive.
When halftime came, the Blue Devils led the Raiders 22-3.
At the beginning of the second half, Walton’s Zak Rozsman found Stone McKnight for a 5-yard touchdown. The Raiders were right back in the game, as they cut the score to 22-10.
Just as the momentum was beginning to shift, the Blue Devils answered Walton’s touchdown with one of their own. Tyler Hughes and Zuri Johnson teamed up for a 63-yard touchdown.
Marietta took a 29-10 lead into the final quarter. To this point, the Blue Devils were doing their part to earn a playoff spot. The crowd was doing their part to keep the energy high.
Walton’s Kenny Djaha ran for a 17-yard touchdown, and AJ Brown ran in the 2-point conversion. Marietta’s lead was now 29-18.
The Raiders attempted an onside kick, but an illegal touching penalty negated the attempt. Marietta started the drive with great field position. On fourth down, Tyler Hughes kept the ball and ran for a 32-yard touchdown. Once again, Marietta answered a Walton touchdown with one of their own.
After the announcement of the 36-18 score update, the announcer informed everyone that Harrison had beaten Hillgrove. Because this was part of the formula that would allow them to make the playoffs, the Marietta fans were thrown into a joyous uproar.
With under two minutes left in the game, and an 18-point lead, the Blue Devils were within reach of claiming the fourth seed in the playoffs.
While overcoming the deficit was next to impossible, Walton did manage to score a last-second touchdown to bring the final score to 36-24.
Blue Devil fans and players celebrated the night’s achievements while exiting the stadium.
Walton looks to regroup and prepare to make a playoff run. Marietta is playing their best football right now, and they hope to ride that momentum deep into the postseason.
Now, both teams await their playoff opponents.