MARIETTA — Marietta’s football roster doesn’t lack for high-level recruits, including four headed to Southeastern Conference schools.
However, one of the Blue Devils’ more underrated college prospects caused Mill Creek the most issues Friday night in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals.
Running back Kimani Vidal buried the visiting Hawks with a huge first half and eighth-ranked Mill Creek never recovered, falling 42-10 to No. 6 Marietta at Northcutt Stadium. Vidal, a stout 5-foot-7, 205 pounds, rushed nine times for 235 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone as his team built a 28-3 edge after two quarters. He finished with 16 carries for 260 yards.
It was a tough ending for Mill Creek (10-3), which still reached the 10-win mark for just the third time in school history — under a first-year head coach, Josh Lovelady.
“In the final eight, they’re all good,” Lovelady said. “Our matchups were a little tough and we didn’t help out, they made some big plays on us and tip your hat to them, they executed well. We ended up not being sound in a few places in lining up and being gap sound, but they were better than us tonight. I’m proud of our kids. We had a great season. We played the Mill Creek way. We just didn’t make enough plays tonight.”
The two teams played a mostly even first quarter before things went sideways for the Hawks. Vidal broke off a 49-yard run on the game’s first possession, setting up a 9-yard TD pass from Tennessee commitment Harrison Bailey to Taji Johnson. Bailey finished the night 18 of 24 passing for 193 yards and three TDs.
Chancellor Lee-Parker’s 51-yard run put Mill Creek in scoring position, but the Hawks had to settle for Brock Pellegrino’s 24-yard field goal.
Marietta (11-2) went ahead 14-3 when Mill Creek’s defense couldn’t get off the field when it forced the hosts behind the chains. The Blue Devils wiggled out of a second-and-24 and a second-and-25 at different points on the drive, converting a fourth-and-13 in the latter situation. Vidal ended that march with a 4-yard TD run.
Mill Creek’s offense struggled throughout the half and managed only 70 yards — 51 on Lee-Parker’s run and 19 yards on its 24 other plays.
Vidal’s 64-yard TD run with 5:45 left in the second quarter pushed the margin to 21-3 and his 91-yard score 26 seconds before halftime made it 28-3. Mill Creek’s offense was put in two good situations near midfield late in the first half by a shanked Marietta punt and by a fumble forced by R.J. Smith and recovered by Ronald Clarke, but went three-and-out after both.
“They’re a good enough team and we didn’t need to help them out, and we did offensively and defensively,” Lovelady said.
The third quarter brought more of the same — Mill Creek had back-to-back three-and-out possessions on offense, and Marietta scored on its first two possessions. The Blue Devils moved the ball more with the pass in the third quarter, and Bailey had a pair of TD passes, a 9-yarder to Michigan State commit Rickey White and a 10-yarder to Johnson.
Mill Creek, after going without a first down in the third quarter, opened the fourth quarter with a sustained drive with Parker Wroble at running back in place of 1,700-yard rusher Lee-Parker. Lee-Parker left the game with an ankle injury and finished with 10 rushes for 53 yards.
Thurman Harris capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run with 5:39 left, closing the margin to 42-10. Harris had a 10-yard run on the drive and completions of 11 and 14 yards to Khamari Glover and Wroble — those three plays were the first to gain 10 or more yards by the Hawks since Lee-Parker’s long run in the first quarter.
Marietta advances to play at Parkview in next week’s semifinals, while Mill Creek can reflect on its 2019 season.
“There’s so much to be proud of,” Lovelady said. “These kids weren’t a big-name group, just a hard-nosed group that came out here and played Mill Creek football and we got to the quarterfinals. I’m proud of them maintaining the tradition of how we play the game and the coaching staff did a great job of individually putting people where they needed to be so they can be successful. Those are the real heroes, the kids believing in the staff and the staff putting a great plan together.”
MARIETTA 42, MILL CREEK 10
Mill Creek 3 0 0 7 — 10
Marietta 7 21 14 0 - 42
Marietta: Taji Johnson 9 pass from Harrison Bailey (Cooper Kipp kick) 10:12
Mill Creek: Brock Pellegrino 24 FG, 3:13
Marietta: Kimani Vidal 4 run (Kipp kick) 9:20
Marietta: Vidal 64 run (Kipp kick) 5:33
Marietta: Vidal 91 run (Kipp kick) :26
Marietta: Rickey White 9 pass from Bailey (Kipp kick) 5:38
Marietta: Johnson 10 pass from Bailey (Kipp kick) :04
Mill Creek: Thurman Harris 3 run (Pellegrino kick) 5:39
Mill Creek Marietta
First downs 9 14
Rushes-yards 33-119 24-266
Passing yards 57 193
Comp-Att-INT 9-13-0 18-26-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 2-20 4-30
RUSHING - Mill Creek: Chancellor Lee-Parker 10-53; Parker Wroble 8-24; Harris 7-24; Josh Battle 3-12; Donovan Journey 1-6; Nick Kava 1-5; Dallas Heyward 1-1; M.J. Patterson 2-(minus-6). Marietta: Vidal 16-260; White 2-12; Milon Jones 3-7; Bailey 3-(minus-13).
PASSING - Mill Creek: Harris 3-5-0, 39; Patterson 6-8-0, 18. Marietta: Bailey 18-24-0, 193; Tyler Hughes 0-2-0, 0.
RECEIVING - Mill Creek: Khamari Glover 3-23; Wroble 3-14; Journey 1-14; Battle 1-3; Lee-Parker 1-3. Marietta: Arik Gilbert 8-94; White 6-58; Johnson 2-19; Jones 1-24; Vidal 1-(minus-2).