The result of that setback was a new and improved Marietta team, which has won two straight games and enters the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs with a road game at No. 7 Lovejoy tonight.
“These kids are mature,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “They understand that they had an opportunity in that game and didn’t take advantage of it. North Cobb had a lot to do with that. But, as you can see, that game didn’t define us and determine who we are. These guys have been eager to get on the practice field since that game and they’ve put it behind them. We’ve learned from it.”
Marietta, and the rest of the state, has learned that the Blue Devils are a dangerous team when they execute well offensively and play sound defense. A week after the North Cobb loss, Marietta lit up Harrison for a 52-14 victory and led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The following week, the Region 4AAAAA No. 3-seed Blue Devils (8-3) held on for a 30-27 first-round state playoff victory at Lowndes to set up tonight’s second-round matchup against the Region 2AAAAAA champion Wildcats (10-1).
“It’s exciting to be in this position,” Burton said. “This has always been my favorite week of practice. There’s no school, and it’s just a different vibe and feeling to be out here during Thanksgiving week. It’s an opportunity to be around one another some more.
“We need to savor these moments. We owe it to ourselves to have another week where we can be together as a team and bond. You just don’t want to see it end.”
In order for it not to end, Marietta must overcome a Lovejoy team that reached the Class AAAA state championship game last season — part of a
34-3 run over the last two-plus years. The Wildcats have won nine consecutive games in their move up from Class AAAA to AAAAAA, captured their third straight region championship and routed Tri-Cities 51-13 in the first round of the state playoffs.
A Marietta victory would advance the team past the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since the Blue Devils reached the state semifinals in 1994, marking a huge feather in the cap for the team and the community.
“I’ve learned in a short time here as coach, the pride Marietta fans have in one another and in their the community,” Burton said. “They like to celebrate success, and you still hear people talk about the teams of the ’90s and the generations that love this school and what it represents.
“Based on my insights over the last couple of years, there is a feeling of pride and appreciation for these teams, and our kids want to provide even more excitement and give back to them.”
Tonight’s game, which is the first meeting between the two schools, will be broadcast across the Southeast on CSS. The Wildcats have several players committed to FBS schools, including Arshad Jackson (Auburn), Travis Custis (Georgia Tech) and JuMichael Ramos (Georgia Tech), and several more are either drawing interest from big programs or committed to FCS schools.
Burton understands Lovejoy will be a great test for his team.
“They’re very fast and athletic on offense and aggressive defensively,” he said. “They match up, don’t do anything tricky and try to play 1-on-1 on the outside. They have a big offensive line, a good running back and tall wide receivers.”