SUWANEE — A major car accident outside Collins Hill High School caused the stadium lights to go out with just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
When the lights came back on 25 minutes later, Harrison Bailey threw his second touchdown pass, a 14-yard strike to Taji Johnson to cap off a 28-9 win at Fahring Field on Friday.
“We had a ton of mistakes and it’s unacceptable. We can’t do this,” Marietta coach Rich Morgan said, whose team entered the game ranked No. 6 in the nation by USA Today. “But we won and the defense bailed us out, two weeks in a row now.”
The Blue Devils have allowed 40 points in the first three games and held Collins Hill (1-1) to just three first downs in the first half.
“The plan was to stop their run game and react to the pass,” Morgan said. “They got that one big pass that got them down into field goal range, but with the exception of a couple of pass plays, I thought the defense did a good job of shutting them down.”
The game’s biggest pass play was a 49-yard catch and run by Collins Hill’s Travis Hunter. The sophomore caught a slant pass from Sam Horn and broke free to the 24-yard line, but the drive stalled and the Eagles were forced to settle for a 39-yard field goal from Isaac Bonacci.
With a young team, you can’t make the mistakes we made out here tonight,” Eagles coach Lenny Gregory said. “But we’re gritty and fought with them for four quarters.
“The only thing I’m disappointed in are the mental mistakes we made.”
The mistakes manifested as a late hit on the ensuing kickoff, and a pass interference penalty, that gave the Marietta offense assistance it didn’t need. Bailey would find Ricky White twice for 11-yard gains before Kimani Vidal got behind the offensive line and backpedaled into the end zone for a 14-3 halftime lead.
White finished the game with 10 receptions for 102 yards, Arik Gilbert caught eight passes for 84 yards and Johnson had six more for 74 yards.
The Eagles quickly went three-and-out to start the second half and punted to White. The senior fielded the ball near midfield, then juked past defenders and broke down the sidelines for a 45-yard return. A play later, Bailey rolled right and threw to a wide open White for the Blue Devils’ third score.
Marietta led 21-9 with 10:03 left in the 4th quarter when the stadium lights all went out, putting the field and the stands into darkness.
“We felt we had some momentum going there, then the lights went out,” Gregory said “Not to make excuses, but they play a lot of guys both ways and that gave them a chance to get fresh.
“They’re really good with a lot of rest, so that might have worked against us.”
When the teams got back on the field, Bailey, who threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns, led a 14-play drive for the game’s final score.
“I think I’ve had that happen before,” Morgan said about the stadium lights going out. “It’s just one of those things, but I’m glad they came back on.
“I wouldn’t want to drive out here again tomorrow to finish.”