KENNESAW -- North Cobb Christian went toe-for-toe with ninth-ranked Darlington, but it had no answer for the Tigers' physical rushing attack as they lost 35-23 on Friday at Jacob Dennis Field.

With the victory, Darlington (8-1, 3-0) won its eighth consecutive game and clinched the Region 7A Private championship. The Tigers rushed for 341 yards, with Caleb Thompson accounting for 229 of those yards as the physical rushing attack wore North Cobb Christian (3-5, 1-1) down.

Ahead 28-17 late in the third quarter after Thompson’s 9-yard touchdown run, Darlington appeared to be poised to put the game away.

North Cobb Christian, however, converted a fourth down around midfield thanks to a pass-interference penalty. Jadin Coates, who was temporarily knocked out of the game on the previous drive, scored on a 36-yard run early in the fourth quarter to bring the Eagles within 28-23.

Coates rushed for 126 yards, including 89 in the second half.

After forcing a three-and-out, North Cobb Christian had a golden opportunity to take the lead, starting at the Darlington 47-yard line. The Eagles, however, only got one first down and the drive stalled at the 36.

Thompson made North Cobb Christian pay with a 64-yard run on the following play, giving Darlington a 35-23 lead with 4:19 remaining.

Luke Brock threw an interception on the following possession, and the Tigers ran out the clock.

An interception by Trey Priester on the second play of the game set up a 30-yard field goal by Trey Stephens to give North Cobb Christian an early 3-0 lead.

After an interception, Patrick Shelley capped off a 15-play, 93-yard drive with a 5-yard run on fourth-and-inches to give Darlington a 7-3 lead. North Cobb Christian responded as Skyler Parker’s 34-yard touchdown catch from Brock to give the Eagles a 10-7 second-quarter lead.

Darlington responded with two touchdowns right before halftime. Will Bagby’s 6-yard catch from Shelley and Shelley’s 4-yard run — his second of the evening — put the Tigers ahead 21-10.

On North Cobb Christian’s opening possession of the second half, Brock connected with Parker again — this time on a 31-yard touchdown pass — cutting the Darlington lead to 21-17 early in the third quarter.

Even though the Eagles will not be able to win the region, they still control their own destiny for the playoffs and home-field in the first round as a potential No. 2 seed, but they must still beat Mount Paran Christian and Christian Heritage.

“Just stay the course,” North Cobb Christian coach Matt Jones said. “Some teams win by a small margin, and some teams lose by a big margin and they are not really that different of teams. We’re a really good 3-5 football team right now, which is hard to believe that we’ve played five top-10 teams that we’ve lost to. We just got to keep working and overcome that, and I think our kids will do that.”


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