Three times in the first half, Marietta (5-2, 4-1) turned special teams mistakes by Campbell (3-5, 1-5) into touchdowns.
The Blue Devils set up their first score, a 1-yard Tyrell Tomlin run, after blocking a Campbell punt with 3:30 to play in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Marietta took a 15-8 lead when Jordan Mathis returned an Enrique Yenny punt 67 yards for a touchdown. Mathis said three key blocks were made to help clear the way.
“When I saw the blocking situation, I just saw the field ahead,” he said.
When Campbell quickly marched down the field for a 19-yard Michael Rogers touchdown run, Marietta again used special teams to steal the momentum. Campbell coach Harris Rainbow tried an onside kick, but it went right into the arms of Marietta’s Peter Savic. The Blue Devils used the good field position to set up a seven-play, 54-yard drive, capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by quarterback Anthony Jennings, an LSU commitment, giving them a 22-15 lead at halftime.
“We spend a lot of time and energy and focus on special teams,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “It’s nice to see that hard work that sometimes gets overlooked be a big part of our success.”
Marietta turned out to need nearly every one of those special teams plays, with Campbell’s offense constantly challenging the Blue Devils’ defense. The Spartans ran for 253 yards on 50 carries with Josh Miller running for 122 yards on 11 carries, with a touchdown, and Jamez Taylor gaining 93 yards on eight carries, including two second half touchdowns.
Of the Blue Devils’ 252 total yards, 192 came on the ground. A big chunk of those came on KirVonte Benson’s 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage after halftime. Benson finished with 145 yards on 14 carries.
Though they never lead, the Spartans kept it close the entire way. Travis Battle’s 5-yard pass from quarterback Ricky James closed the gap to 44-36 with less than 2 minutes to play, but Marietta once again recovered the onside kick to put the game away.
Rainbow was pleased with the way his team competed, despite the special teams errors and some key penalties. The Spartans are already well ahead of the 1-9 record they had in 2011.
“We had a lot of mistakes against what could be one of the top teams in the state of Georgia,” he said. “Our kids played great, I’m proud of them. No one likes to lose, no one likes moral victories but we’re getting there.”
The victory keeps Marietta in a tie for second in Region 4AAAAAA.
Burton said his team has to continue to raise the bar for itself.
“I told our kids that it’s nice to see them disappointed and upset after getting a region win, because it proves the expectations are higher than just coming away with a win,” he said.