The Valdosta Daily Times
Judging by the small crowd at the Concrete Palace Friday night, it was clear Lowndes fans expected the Vikings to cruise through their opening round matchup against Marietta.
The Blue Devils had different plans. In fact, the Blue Devils had very different plans.
Marietta (8-3) used a strong performance from senior quarterback Anthony Jennings to stun the Vikings 30-27 in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs Friday night at Martin Stadium. It was the first time Lowndes (9-2) lost a home playoff game in the first round under head coach Randy McPherson, who was previously 17-1 in home playoff games since taking over the program in 2002.
“It is tough,” McPherson said. “You can’t take anything away from (Marietta). Their quarterback was the difference in the ball game.”
Jennings, the difference maker McPherson alluded to, threw for three touchdowns and broke loose for an 88-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to lead the Blue Devils to the historic win over the Vikings.
The long touchdown run by Jennings put a stop to the surging Vikings early in the fourth quarter and re-extended the Blue Devils’ lead to 10 points, 30-20, with 8:33 remaining in the game. On the scoring
play, the LSU commit broke through the entire Lowndes defensive line, managing to keep his feet and then outrun the entire defensive backfield.
“It hurt,” McPherson said of the run by Jennings. ”He was everything they said he was.”
Despite going back down by 10 points, the Vikings didn’t go away. On the following possession, senior Nick Burgman, who was back in the lineup after missing the game against Camden County with a hamstring injury, scored on a 41-yard run that brought the Vikings back within three, 30-27.
Then following a Blue Devil punt, the Vikings had their first opportunity to take the lead since early in the first quarter, but wasted the chance with a fumble by Tiquan Lang at midfield.
Looking to run out the clock, Marietta managed to run three plays and take the clock down to the 1-minute mark. After a timeout, Jennings was stuffed at the line on fourth-andone, turning possession of the ball back over to Lowndes. But, the Blue Devil defense was too much. Lowndes quarterback Alex Stephenson (1 of 2 for 43 yards) was sacked twice, while the Vikings allowed 30 seconds to run off the clock in between plays.
Then, on the final play of the game, Stephenson dumped the ball off to Tevin Brown, who ran up the field towards but was tackled as time expired.
Marietta scored on three of its first four offensive possessions to open the game. The Blue Devils connected on a 19-yard field goal on their firstdrive, which was set up by a 43-yard interception return by defender Tyrell Tomlin.
After Lowndes answered on its following possession with a 38-yard field goal by Gustavo Gonzales, the Blue Devils punted before using two of Jennings’ three TD passes to grab a shocking 16-3 lead on Lowndes.
Jennings connected with Chavez Hemphill on a 91-yard touchdown pass, which came on a third-and-long, to take a 9-3 lead. The Blue Devils failed to convert their two-point conversion.
Then, following a quick Viking three-and-out, which resulted in negative nine yards, Jennings drove Marietta 45 yards down the field and connected with Tyree Harris on a 30-yard touchdown pass that made the score 16-3.
“They made some plays and you can’t take anything from them,” McPherson said. “We made too many mistakes to win the game.”
Lowndes added another Gonzales field goal at the end of the first half to make the score 16-6, silencing the smallest crowd of the season at Lowndes.
The second half started much like the first half ended: with Marietta celebrating a touchdown.
Starting at their own 22-yard line, the Blue Devils put together a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by Jennings’ third TD connection of the night. This time, Jennings found Jordan Mathis on the 21-yard scoring connection that put Marietta ahead 23-6.
Following the score, the momentum started to swing, even if just for a few minutes, into Lowndes’ favor. Lang, playing in his first game since mid-October, returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a Viking touchdown, making the score 23-13.
A few possessions later, Lowndes continued its comeback with a 5-yard touchdown run by sophomore Ahman Brown, which made the score 23-20.
Marietta couldn’t answer on its next possession, punting the football back to Lowndes. On their next drive, the Vikings handed it off to Brown on a short third-and-one, but he was dragged down for a loss and LHS was forced to punt.
Jennings regained the momentum for Marietta off the punt, breaking loose for his 88-yard TD run.
Jennings finished the night 9 of 19 passing for 195 yards with his three touchdowns. He also led the Blue Devils in rushing with 111 yards on 11 carries.
Jordan Williams led the Vikings with 65 yards rushing on 12 carries, while Ahman Brown tallied 50 yards rushing on 15 carries. Nick Burgman added 46 yards on 13 rushing attempts.