MARIETTA — The inaugural season for Marietta’s flag football team came to an end Saturday with a 6-0 defeat loss South Forsyth at Northcutt Stadium.
One week after knocking off top-ranked Sequoyah, South Forsyth held on to advance to the Class 6A/7A state semifinals at the Home Depot Backyard next to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Lady War Eagles will play Wednesday against West Forsyth, which defeated McEachern 35-0 on Saturday.
South Forsyth coach Cassie Smith let her emotions flow following the upset victory over Marietta, which entered the playoffs ranked No. 6 in 6A/7A.
“I’m not going to lie. I started crying before the game even started today,” Smith said. “I was just so excited. There’s only one girl on our team that even realizes how important this game was today. They don’t play other sports, they’re not incredibly athletic, but they’re getting to belong to something now. I’m just so proud of them.”
Marietta took possession to open the game and quickly marched down the field behind the efforts of quarterback McKaela Walker. A big run by Walker set up the Lady Blue Devils on the 6-yard line, but Walker was sacked on fourth-and-goal by South Forsyth’s Ellianna Villianatos to end the drive.
It was a harbinger of things to come as South Forsyth finished with four sacks in the game.
South Forsyth was led again by senior quarterback Ashley Chu, who kept the Marietta defense guessing with dynamic runs and timing completions. Marietta senior Olabisi Ojulari, the younger sister of Southeastern Conference defensive standouts Azeez and BJ Ojulari, kept Chu contained through the first half, however.
Ojulari finished with a team-high six pulls and was deployed as a spy on Chu for nearly the entire contest.
Marietta forced punts by South Forsyth in the first half and faced a second fourth-and-goal on the 8-yard line on its second possession, but once again came up empty. The two teams went to halftime with a scoreless tie.
“As far as the X’s and O’s go, our team really found our hands,” Smith said. “When we started warming up, we weren’t catching any balls, but we had a couple of girls make some big catches there in the second half.”
Chu, who finished 7-for-15 passing, led the game’s only scoring drive to start the second half. After leading South Forsyth down to the 12-yard line with her feet, Chu connected with Villianatos for a 12-yard touchdown.
The extra-point attempt fell incomplete and 16 minutes remained in the game.
Marietta responded, driving down the field once again.
McKaela Walker, who finished 7-for-14 passing, drove the Lady Blue Devils down inside the 5-yard line where, once again, they faced a fourth-and-goal. However, a run attempt by McKenzie Walker was stopped behind the line by Villianatos and Marietta once again was unable to capitalize on a scoring opportunity.
“The amount of growth we’ve experienced from the beginning of the season is incredible,” Villianatos said. “I’m so thankful for the coaches and my teammates. We’re a family, and it’s amazing what a football and flag can do.”
The final fourth-down stop would be the last real opportunity for Marietta, as South Forsyth took up more than six minutes on its final drive.
Chu finished 4-for-4 passing on the final drive, which was stopped short inside the Marietta 20-yard line with less than 1 minute to play. A final completed pass by McKaela Walker moved Marietta to midfield, but the clock expired before the Lady Blue Devils could execute a final attempt at the end zone.
“I’m just incredibly grateful for this team,” Chu said. “I would have never expected us to be here at the beginning of the season.”