It was just that kind of night for the Blue Devils, who ended their season Friday with a 36-15 loss to Wildcats.
After throwing for three touchdowns and running for another in a 30-27 upset victory at Lowndes in the first round last week, Marietta quarterback Anthony Jennings was held in check by the Lovejoy defense. He finished the game completing 15-of-28 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, but could only gain 18 yards on the ground. He was also sacked nine times for 67 yards.
Marietta’s offense had a tough time moving the ball against No. 7 Lovejoy (11-1), which advanced to the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals and will host North Gwinnett next week. The Blue Devils were outgained 171 to 18 in the first half, but only trailed 15-8 at halftime after Onterrio Lay returned an errant field goal try 66-yards for a touchdown, and the Wildcats’ punt return unit drew three roughing the kicker penalties to extend Marietta drives.
Following each penalty, though, the Blue Devils
(8-4) were unable to take advantage. The first led to an interception for the Wildcats’ Montrell Custis. The second forced a three-and-out, but Marietta still got the ball back after Kadeem Wallington recovered a fumble on Lovejoy’s attempt to secure the punt. The third penalty drew another three-and-out drive for the Blue Devils, who had 128 yards of offense compared to 289 for the Wildcats.
“They just won the series of one-on-one matchups against us,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “Offensively, we just couldn’t get it going because they won those matchups. I thought our defense played really well. We just didn’t put the defense in very good situations. Our special teams and our defense, I felt, held up their end.
“Offensively, we struggled and (Lovejoy has) a very, very good and very athletic team over there. We just had a hard time finding a rhythm. I felt like we found a little bit of a rhythm in the second half, but it was too little too late.”
Lovejoy scored on its first possession of the game when Alejandro Bennefield connected with Arshad Jackson on third-and-goal at the 18 for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
A Marietta fumble on the ensuing drive led to a field goal attempt for Lovejoy’s Jai Murphy, but the snap wasn’t fielded cleanly and Lay returned it for a touchdown. Jordan Mathis’ pass to Marcus Bennett on the conversion was good and the Blue Devils held an 8-7 lead.
Custis’ interception at Lovejoy’s 2-yard line resulted in a 9-play, 98-yard drive — using all running plays — that culminated with Jonathan Hill’s 39-yard touchdown run and successful 2-point conversion for a 15-8 Wildcats’ margin with 7:39 left in the half.
Bennefield, who completed 12-of-18 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, connected with Jeff Murphy for a 15-yard score with 6:07 left in the third quarter to extend the lead to 22-8. One series later, after Marietta tried to convert on fourth down off a fake punt, Bennefield’s found Travis Custis for a 16-yard touchdown and a 29-8 margin.
A roughing the passer penalty on Jennings turned into one of Marietta’s few bright spots on the evening. Jennings sat out two plays following the hit, but when he returned he threw a 44-yard touchdown to Tyree Harris to trim the deficit to 29-15.
The Marietta defense forced a three-and-out on Lovejoy on its next possession, and the Blue Devils managed to move the ball to the Wildcats’ 8 on their subsequent drive, but a 19-yard sack by Eugene Fuller on Jennings halted the drive.
Brandon Davis returned Jennings’ final interception 105 yards for a touchdown for the final score of the game.
Harris caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown to lead Marietta.
Travis Custis carried the ball 24 times for 99 yards and had four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.