On Friday, however, the Blue Devils had to experience the painful side of that at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
With just under a minute remaining, Ian Shannon’s field goal put Marietta ahead, but Preston Williams hauled in his fourth touchdown catch of the game as time expired, resulting in a 27-23 final that eliminated the Blue Devils from the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
“I was not surprised to see us take the lead with a minute left, but, ultimately, a great player made a great play to beat us,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “You got to tip your hat to that.”
The Blue Devils (8-3) saw their season end in the Wildcats’ hands for the second straight year, one round earlier than the 2012 season.
After 11 minutes of scoreless play in the fourth quarter, Marietta regained the lead when Shannon nailed a 40-yard field goal for a 23-21 edge with just 53 seconds remaining. The play capped a nine-play drive that was also highlighted by Jordan Mathis’ 34-yard pass to Marcus Bennett on fourth-and-2 from the Blue Devils’ 49.
“Ian’s clutch,” Burton said, “but our whole team is clutch. He will get credit. Jordan will get credit.”
Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to Lovejoy’s 39. Three plays later, Quintarius Neely completed an 8-yard pass to Tremaine Dillard, who fumbled, but the Wildcats (10-1) recovered the loose ball at the Blue Devils’ 47.
After spiking the ball to stop the clock with barely 6 seconds left, Neely lofted a pass down the sideline, the 6-foot-5 Williams came down with the ball among two defenders and made his way into the end zone for the game-winning score.
It was just one play in a highlight-reel night for Williams, a junior who has already committed to Tennessee.
Late in the third quarter, Williams made an interception deep in Marietta’s territory. Three plays later, he caught a bomb from Neely for a 96-yard TD reception and a 21-20 edge.
The first half was a tale of two quarters.
After Williams, who had 118 receiving yards at the half, made two impressive touchdown catches in the first quarter for a 14-0 Lovejoy advantage, the Blue Devils owned the rest of the half despite starting quarterback Brenton Martin’s shoulder injury.
First, in what cut the deficit in half, Mathis took over for Martin and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Bennett with 11:15 to go in the quarter.
Then, after Mathis found Lawton Ward for a 31-yard gain on a fake punt, the Blue Devils pulled even on KirVonte’ Benson’s 16-yard sprint to the end zone with 6:49 left.
“I’ve been coaching for almost 20 years and I’m not sure I’ve ever been around a better all-around football player than Jordan Mathis,” Burton said.
As a result of interceptions by Kadeem Wallington and Tyrell Tomlin in Lovejoy territory, Shannon nailed field goals from 40 and 27 yards for a six-point halftime edge.
“When we went down 14-0, I think most people thought it might be a long night for us, but there is a resolve and a toughness about these kids, and that is special,” Burton said.