Jake Smith’s second-quarter touchdown pass to Ryan Davis gave Blessed Trinity the lead, and the Titans’ defense made it hold up in a 16-7 victory over Marist in the Class AAAA championship game Friday at Marist’s Hughes Spalding Stadium.
The victory avenged a 25-24 loss to Region 7-AAAA rival Marist in the regular season and gave Blessed Trinity (13-2) its first state championship in the history of the program, which started in 2001. Marist (14-1) came up short in its bid for its first state championship since 2003 and third overall.
Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin became the 15th coach in GHSA history to win a state championship at two schools. He led Roswell to Class AAAAA title in 2016.
“The program they’ve got here at Marist is outstanding,” McFarlin said. “For us to beat this program, in this game, really I think it establishes a new watermark for our football program at Blessed Trinity.”
Smith, a starter at quarterback and safety, played more than half the game with a broken thumb but completed 11 of 12 passes for 111 yards. He also ran eight times for 27 yards, part of the Titans’ 174-yard rushing effort.
But the game was controlled by the Blessed Trinity defense. Marist came into the final averaging 228.5 yards per game rushing but was limited to 50 yards on 26 carries. Marist’s lack of success on the ground, along with a deficit it faced for the final three quarters, forced War Eagles quarterback Chase Abshier to throw an uncharacteristically high 23 passes. He completed 12 for 134 yards.
Abshier, the team’s leading rusher with 959 yards in the first 14 games, was held to 13 yards on 16 carries.
“Our defense has really led this whole playoff run that we’ve made,”McFarlin said. “They’ve allowed the offense to have a little room for error. But I can’t say enough about coach [John] Thompson and our defensive staff and how they’ve carried us through this run.”
Blessed Trinity outgained Marist 107-13 in the first quarter but did not take the lead until Smith’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Davis with 11:10 to play in the half.
After holding the War Eagles to a three-and-out on their next possession, the Titans moved into position to score again, driving 47 yards in nine plays to the Marist 13-yard line, but Smith’s pass was intercepted by Marist’s Eric Boyd at the 2 to stop the drive. The interception ended Smith’s 8-for-8 streak passing to start the game.
Marist got into Blessed Trinity territory twice late in the half but turned the ball over on downs.
Blessed Trinity, which was averaging 216.7 yards rushing through the first 14 games, had just 57 yards rushing at halftime but got the running game going in the second half, when it attempted just three passes. Elijah Green had 71 of his 95 yards in the final two quarters, and Steele Chambers added 27 of his 52. Steele’s 3-yard touchdown run with 9:22 left in the game gave the Titans a 14-0 lead.
Marist cut the lead to 14-7 on an 8-yard run by Charlie Addicks with 3:27 remaining. The War Eagles had one last shot when they got the ball back at their 7-yard line with 1:33 to play, but Abshier was sacked on the second play for a safety and the game’s final points.
Blessed Trinity finished with a 285-184 advantage in total offense.
“Marist is good on defense,” McFarlin said. “I mean Marist is just good. They were 14-0 coming into this. I feel like the offense did enough to do what we needed to do. We ran the ball enough, we threw a little bit and mixed it up and were able to get the ball down the field.”
Blessed Trinity – 0-7-0-9 – 16
Marist – 0-0-0-7 – 7
BT – Ryan Davis 9 pass from Jake Smith (Ethan Chauvin kick)
BT – Steele Chambers 3 run (Ethan Chauvin kick)
M – Charlie Addicks 8 run (Timmy Bleekrode kick)
BT – Safety (quarterback tackled in end zone)