High School Football: Thomas County Central Edges Marist To Reach Georgia 6A Finals

December 2, 2023
3 mins read
High School Football: Thomas County Central Edges Marist To Reach Georgia 6A Finals

For the first time since 2002, the Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets are headed to the state championship game after taking down Marist in a hard-fought 13-7 win Friday night.

After last making it to the state finals 21 years ago as members of Class 4A, the Yellow Jackets will now look to bring home their first title since 1997 as members of Class 6A.

With what has proven to be one of the best defenses in the state of Georgia, regardless of classification, the Yellow Jackets held the War Eagles to a mere seven points on Friday night, their lowest scoring output since their loss to Rome in last year’s Class 6A state quarterfinals.

After traveling some 240 miles north to take on Marist in the Class 6A semifinals Friday night, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the game.

The Yellow Jackets got the ball for the first time with just under seven minutes remaining in the first quarter and promptly marched 80 yards on 16 plays and scored when sophomore quarterback Jalen Johnson ran the ball in from one yard out.

Leading the War Eagles 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, they later found the end zone again, this time with a 1-yard touchdown run from senior running back Trey Brenton with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter.

A missed extra point gave the Yellow Jackets a 13-0 lead.

In desperate need of some offense, the War Eagles finally got some on their next drive. After marching into Yellow Jacket territory, junior quarterback Jack Euart rumbled into the end zone from 12 yards out to cut his team’s deficit to 13-7 with one minute remaining in the half.

That, however, was the last score of the game for either team.

After forcing a fumble in the first half that helped set up their second touchdown drive, the Yellow Jackets defense forced two more turnovers in the second half, including the game-sealer.

Despite all of their offensive struggles on the night, the War Eagles still found themselves with an opportunity to take the lead late in the fourth quarter after reaching the Yellow Jackets’ 32-yard line with under four minutes remaining.

But their chances of completing the comeback went up in smoke after a fumble was recovered by safety Dee Reddick on the very next play.

From there, the Yellow Jackets were able to eat the final three minutes after converting three first downs and forcing the War Eagles to burn all three of their timeouts. Then it was time to celebrate with their first state semifinals win in 21 years.

Three Takeaways from Thomas County Central’s win over Marist

The Yellow Jackets lived up to the hype in their run to the Class 6A State Finals

For anyone who has paid attention to Class 6A football this season, seeing Thomas County Central advance to the state finals should not come as a surprise.

Heading into the playoffs, SBLive Sports had the Yellow Jackets ranked as the eighth-best team in the state of Georgia, regardless of classification, and the No. 2 ranked team in Class 6A.

The season the Yellow Jackets have put together up until this point has been nothing short of incredible.

They’ve allowed just 8.3 points-per-game on defense through 14 games, the best defensive unit they’ve had since the 1970s, and it’s carried them all the way to the Class 6A state finals.

On offense, the Yellow Jackets have rushed for upwards of 3,000 yards with Brenton leading the charge. With their terrific defense and dominant rushing attack, it has been a massive recipe for success in 2023.

The Yellow Jackets didn’t let back-to-back long road trips affect them

For as good as the Yellow Jackets were this season, having to travel north in back-to-back weeks could have been their downfall.

In the quarterfinals, the Yellow Jackets lost the coin toss and were forced to travel 286 miles north to Rome. They won that game in a nail-biter 19-16.

The Yellow Jackets lost the coin toss again this week and traveled 240 miles north to Atlanta and came out with a 6-point victory, 13-7.

That travel schedule is enough to sink most schools in the state of Georgia, but not the Yellow Jackets, who have one of the best-traveling fan bases in the state. The Yellow Jacket faithful showed up in full force with their vuvuzelas and willed their team to victory in back-to-back weeks.

And they’ll need to do it one more time on Dec. 12 when they make the long trek back up north for a third straight game to take on Woodward Academy inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the state championship game.

The Yellow Jackets are in for a war against Woodward Academy in the state finals

On paper, the Yellow Jackets are the favorites heading into the Class 6A state championship game against Woodward Academy, who beat Douglas County, 24-21, Friday night.

But don’t expect the game to be easy for the Yellow Jackets, who will be facing a red-hot War Eagles team that nobody expected to reach the finals.

The War Eagles upset the favorite to win the Class 6A state title, Gainesville in the quarterfinals, and then upset Douglas County on the road Friday night.

They’ll now be rewarded a state championship in their backyard with Mercedes-Benz stadium located just 7.4 miles north of the Woodward Academy campus in College Park.

There’s arguably no hotter team in the state right now than Woodward Academy, but if there’s a team that can slow them down, it’s the Yellow Jackets. Behind the best defense in Class 6A, the first team to 20 points could win the state championship.

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