Gilbert

Special Marietta tight end Arik Gilbert has been named the Gatorade Georgia Football Player of the Year.

The Marietta Blue Devils will be playing on a national stage Friday.

Marietta, which won the Class AAAAAAA state championship Saturday, will be one of four teams to take part in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Las Vegas. The Blue Devils were the only public school program invited.

Marietta, ranked No. 11 nationally by MaxPreps, will play Eastside Catholic of Sammamish, Washington, on Friday at Bishop Gorman High School. The game will kick off at 11 p.m. Eastern time and be broadcast nationally by ESPNU.

Hawaii’s Saint Louis School and Florida’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School will face off in the second game of the showcase Saturday night.

Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera said he, his district and the Marietta community are elated for the Blue Devils to have been selected to compete at the national level.

“We’re honored to have our football team representing the city of Marietta and Marietta High School as they travel to Las Vegas,” Rivera said. “It speaks to the talent of our team and the talent of our coaches, and we’re excited to be on the national stage.”

The superintendent said he has already heard from many Marietta alumni and parents who say they will be heading west to watch the game in person. Rivera said he was confident the team will feel the presence of their community during the game.

As for the team, it will depart Thursday and return sometime Saturday. Fifty-five players will make the trip, and coach Richard Morgan said the team’s regular starters will play, but how much is to still to be determined.

“They’ll play, but not the whole game,” Morgan said. “We’ll work some of our younger guys in there who will be back next year.

Eastside Catholic, in the outskirts of Seattle, clinched Washington’s Class 3A state championship with a 20-12 win over O’Dea. This will be the second straight season the Crusaders will compete in the GEICO showcase after beating Centennial High School of Peoria, Arizona, 17-0.

Eastside is led by Ohio State commit Gee Scott, a wide receiver who has caught 76 passes for 1,453 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, and five-star junior defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau.

Sports editor John Bednarowski contributed to this report.

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