LAS VEGAS — After winning its first state championship in 52 years, Marietta’s football team flew across the country to give itself one more experience on the field this season.
The Class AAAAAAA state champion Blue Devils used Friday’s game in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series to put on an aerial show at Bishop Gorman High School.
Backup quarterback Tyler Hughes took a handoff from starter Harrison Bailey and hit a wide-open Arik Gilbert for a 62-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, while Bailey threw for 410 yards and six scoring strikes before watching the second half of Marietta’s 53-14 win over Eastside Catholic, Washington’s Class 3A state champion.
“We wanted to start fast. They probably weren’t expecting (the trick play), and we snuck our backup quarterback in there,” Marietta coach Richard Morgan said. “We were able to get it, and Arik made a great play. It worked out well.”
There was not much that Marietta tried that did not work.
The Blue Devils’ second play from scrimmage also went for a touchdown — a 27-yarder from Bailey to Kimani Vidal — after they were set up in prime field position by a Ra’Shun Bass interception.
Bailey added touchdown passes of 34 yards to Ricky White and 70 yards on a wide-receiver screen to Taji Johnson to give Marietta a 27-0 lead before Eastside ever got a first down.
Johnson had 179 yards and three touchdowns to lead a trio of receivers who had at least 100 yards. White went for 171 and three scores, while Gilbert finished with 100 yards.
“They’re hard-working. Week in and week out, they’re always getting each other better,” Bailey said of his receivers. “They’re always open, so I just throw the ball to them and let them make plays.”
The Blue Devils struck again on the first play of the second quarter, when Bailey and White connected on a 28-yard touchdown.
To that point, Eastside had little success other than a pair of kickoff returns that started drives in Marietta territory. The Crusaders, however, finally got something going after being backed up to their own 6.
They marched 94 yards in 13 plays and found the end zone on a 15-yard pass from Kobe Muasau to Gee Scott Jr., and they had a chance to grab some momentum when Bailey made his only mistake and was picked off by Dishawn Misa.
But Gio Ursino, who rushed or 129 yards and a touchdown for Eastside, fumbled inside the Marietta 20 to end the threat. Bailey struck for two more long scores, a 65-yarder to Johnson and a 69-yarder to White, for a 46-7 lead at halftime.
“It’s the experience of playing one last time with my brothers before most of us head off to college,” said Bailey, two days after signing with Tennessee. “I’ll miss these boys. The whole experience out here in Vegas is just fun.”
The second half was played under a running clock, but Marietta still found the end zone one more time. That came on an 18-yard pass from Hughes to Johnson with 26 seconds left in the third quarter. It was the final offensive play of the night for Marietta.
Hughes threw for 114 yards and the two touchdowns for the Blue Devils, who had 517 of their 561 yards through the air.
Ursino capped a 15-play Eastside drive with a 15-yard touchdown burst, and the Crusaders retained possession by recovering an onside kick before Ursino was stopped at the Marietta 1-yard line on the final play.
“I wasn’t real happy about (the fourth quarter). That onside kick recovery was not good,” Morgan said, “but hey, we won the game, we played well and everybody played, so I’m happy.”
Muasau threw for 149 yards for Eastside, which finished with 308 total yards.