MARIETTA — In a game that saw both offenses eclipse 400 yards, Marietta outlasted North Paulding for a 42-37 during Friday night’s homecoming festivities at Northcutt Stadium.
“They got a good team and they fought hard and they gave us everything we could handle,” Marietta coach Richard Morgan said.
The Marietta offense was keyed by quarterback Tyler Hughes, who completed 22 of 29 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns. The junior also tacked on 74 rushing yards.
Marietta (2-4, 1-0 Region 3AAAAAAA) won the yardage battle by a 446-430 margin.
North Paulding (1-5, 0-1) started the second half with the ball and trailing 22-20, but on the first play of the drive, Marietta’s Jah’Vaughn Hamilton intercepted Devon Bradley at the Wolfpack’s 23-yard line.
The Blue Devils took advantage of the field position as, three plays later, Milon Jones dove in from 2 yards out to push the advantage to 29-20.
“We said we had to win the first 4 minutes of the second half,” Morgan said. “I’m proud that we were able to do that.”
North Paulding responded quickly, however, as Bradley scrambled 76 yards for a touchdown on third down to trim the Marietta lead to a 29-27.
The Blue Devils seemed to have put the game away in the fourth quarter when Daniel Martin intercepted Bradley. Four plays later, Melvin Alexander punched in a touchdown from 5 yards out to push the lead to 42-30 with 2 minutes left.
North Paulding did not go quietly.
After a long kick return set the Wolfpack up at their own 49, Bradley scored on a 9-yard run with a minute left to pull within 42-37. Marietta, though, secured the subsequent onside kick to ensure the victory.
Trailing 22-13 with 1 minute left in the first half, Nakai Ashley set North Paulding up at its own 43 with a 40-yard kick return. Four plays later, Bradley threw a 50-yard scoring strike to Boone Anderson to pull the Wolfpack to within a 22-20 margin at the half.
Bradley kept the Marietta defense off-balance throughout the night, racking up 260 yards through the air and 143 yards rushing.
“They hadn’t shown him running much on film,” Morgan said. “Obviously, tonight, he did a great job.”
The game started out ominously for Marietta when, on its first play from scrimmage, Hughes had the ball stripped away. Jacob Amos fell on the ball in the end zone to give North Paulding an early 7-0 advantage.
Hughes responded convincingly, engineering a seven-play, 80-yard drive finished off by a 9-yard scoring toss to Martin — the first of two scoring connections between the two.
“We showed some resiliency to come back after some bad plays, but, this late in the season, we can’t be making those mistakes,” Morgan said.