By Rory Sharrock
ATLANTA- The players, student-body and alumni at Marist High School have been spoiled by their historic tradition of success and they've grown accustomed to winning with ease.
This mindset was further increased when the War Eagles learned they would be hosting Mt. Zion in the third round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
However, despite the fact that the Bulldogs were undermanned and underrated by the host institution, the lowly underdogs from Clayton County gave the established War Eagles all they had, rallying from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and down 28-13 at the half, but came up one point short, losing 34-33 on a rainy Friday night at Marist High School.
"When you face a team like Marist, there is no room to evolve into understanding the pace of the game. We showed a little bit of youth in trying to understand what they were doing. Once the kids caught on, we competed," said Mt. Zion head coach Jarrett Laws. "They (Marist) are everything as advertised. But I'll never forget this team (Mt. Zion) because they showed the world you don't need a whole bunch of money, resources and fancy trinkets to shock the world and become something special."
Marist looked poised to run away with the game after a five-play scoring drive on its first possession and then with a 45-yard touchdown run by Matt Connors, his second score of the quarter.
But Mt. Zion stormed back when Quartterio Morgan sprinted out the blocks for a 50-yard score on third and 25, which silenced the Marist crowd.
Marist quickly responded with a 21-yard touchdown dash by halfback Patrick Sullivan to go up 21-7.
Mt. Zion added another score before the half when wide receiver Drexel Copeland hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jarrel King. But Everett Sanchez's extra point attempt was partially blocked and bounced off the crossbar, making the game 28-13.
In the second half, Mt. Zion's powerful defense returned to form, holding Marist to just two field goals. The offense continued to use its speed to its advantage and climbed back into contention, causing a panic within the War Eagle faithful.
On the final drive, Marist played a soft zone and King threw to multiple receivers before hitting Copeland for a 13-yard touchdown strike. Copeland then passed to Rummel Victor for a two-point conversion, making the score 34-33.
But the onside kick was recovered by Marist, sending Mt. Zion home with a crushing loss.