After a timeout and some deliberation, Hockman elected to go for the 2-point conversion, and bid for the lead instead of a tie.
The decision seemed like the logical one for the coach.
“We had some momentum going, and we were at home, and I thought the play would work,” he said. “Fortunately, for us, it did.”
Ty Clemons’ jump-ball pass over the line of scrimmage to Chris Okeh — after a fake handoff to Mike Sherman — proved to be the difference as McEachern won 29-28 to improve to 2-2 on the season and 2-0 in Region 4AAAAAA play.
Marietta (2-2, 1-1) took the lead when Tyrell Tomlin capped an eight-play, 79-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge that put the Blue Devils on top 28-21 with 4:02 left in the game.
Marietta forced a three-and-out on McEachern’s next possession, but Chase Jones booted a 53-yard punt to put the Blue Devils well into their own territory with 3:03 remaining.
Marietta ran one rushing play for minus-1 yard, and two incompletions from Anthony Jennings forced the Blue Devils to punt as McEachern took over on its own 35-yard line with 1:58 left in the contest.
Clemons completed passes of 7 and 19 yards, Sherman rushed three times for 15 yards and Griffin carried the ball three times for 24 yards on the Indians’ ensuing possession, and the 2-point conversion gave them the late lead with only seconds remaining.
Marietta managed to convert one first down on its final drive. However, Jennings’ knee was called down at the Indians’ 49-yard line on a hook-and-lateral play to Jordan Mathis, ending the game and sending McEachern’s fans into a frenzy.
Griffin rushed 18 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns, while Sherman had 12 carries for 102 yards. Clemons completed nine of 13 passes for 99 yards and ran the ball nine times for 39 yards.
For Griffin, it was his first live game action since suffering a high ankle sprain early in the season-opening loss to Grayson in the Corky Kell Classic.
“It felt really good to be back on the field and to be able to contribute with my team,” he said. “My offensive line and receivers did a great job blocking, and it was a big team effort.”
It was a hard-fought victory for McEachern, which rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit.
Jennings, who completed 16 of 30 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, found Mathis for an 80-yard score on the first play of the game. Mathis finished with two catches for 89 yards, while Jennings set the Marietta career passing record with his 80-yard strike to Mathis.
Jennings came into the game needing 42 passing yards to surpass Eric Zeier’s career mark of 4,495. Jennings’ performance Friday gave him 4,732 yards in 24 appearances for Marietta.
After a back-and-forth affair, the Blue Devils added to their lead when Jennings connected with Marcus Bennett for a 54-yard touchdown and the 14-0 margin with 4:21 left in the second quarter.
McEachern’s offense, which stalled for much of the first half, found its groove right from the start of the third period. A 24-yard pass from Clemons to T.J. Rahmig, coupled with a 12-yard toss to Williams kept the Indian’s opening drive alive until Taj Griffin scored on a 16-yard touchdown run to put McEachern on the board.
“We wanted to get back to the basics offensively,” Hockman said of his team’s second-half adjustments. “We have some great athletes who just needed to settle down. Ty (Griffin) was still knocking the rust off, and after that first drive where we scored, we stepped it up and made plays and kept battling.”
Marietta answered behind Kervonte Benson, who capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run for a 21-7 Blue Devils lead. Benson finished with 13 carries for 106 yards and a score.
McEachern tied the game, however, on its next two possessions. Ty Griffin rushed in from 17 yards away with 1:55 left in the third period and had a 1-yard score with 8:45 remaining in the game to tie the contest at 21-all.
Neither squad could gain an advantage on their next two possessions, but Jennings, who also rushed 14 times for 96 yards, had a 27-yard carry, and Benson had a 20-yard run, leading to Tomlin’s score with 4:02 left.
Marietta had a chance to run out the clock after taking possession following Jones’ 53-yard punt, but the Blue Devils’ offense stalled.
“I wish we could have gotten a few first downs on that drive when we needed them,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “That three-and-out hurt us. On the flip side, we had a chance to get (McEachern) off the field, but they executed well and got the touchdown.
“I’m not surprised they’d go for two. When your team fights that hard, as a coach, you want to put the kids in a position to decide it, and they did. Coach Hockman’s a good coach and it was a good play call.”