Marist coach Alan Chadwick didn’t hesitate to make the decision.
With the score tied 14-14, Marist was facing a fourth-and-5 from the Southwest DeKalb 42-yard-line in the final seconds of the Region 6-AAAA showdown on Friday night. Chadwick called on junior kicker Austin Hardin, who had missed field goal attempts of 44 and 47 yards in the first half.
This time Hardin was on target and kicked a 59-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining as Marist beat Southwest DeKalb 17-14 at Hallford Stadium. Marist improves to 3-1 while Southwest drops to 2-2. All games are region games.
“There was no hesitation,” Chadwick said. “He’s still learning things but we knew he’s got the leg for it.”
The win keeps Marist a game behind undefeated Tucker and Mays in the region. It also keeps alive the War Eagles’ hope of home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s about time we win a game like this,” Chadwick said. “We’ve been in some real tough games lately--this game last year (won by Southwest 21-7) on this field, the playoff loss against Apalachee last year and the Tucker game two weeks ago (a 31-24 overtime loss). This was a huge win for both our players and coaches.”
Marist jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard run by Gray King early in the second quarter. Tucker tied the game 7-7 on the first play of its next possession on a 53-yard pass play from quarterback Andre Wilson to Nicholas Barnett.
After Hardin’s second miss of the night, Southwest drove 80 yards for a 14-7 lead on a 7-yard run by Toran Davis. Marist answered right away, embarking on a 61-yard scoring drive. King capped it with a 2-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 from the Southwest 2-yard-line with 4:48 remaining in the game.
Southwest could not muster a first down, and punted from its own 39 on fourth-and-1. Marist took over at its own 30 with 2:22 to play. Two key completions from quarterback Andy Perez to receiver Jason Snellings helped push the ball to the Southwest 42 to set up Hardin’s heroics.
“This was my most inaccurate game before the last kick,” Hardin said. “I was pulling everything left and I wasn’t getting my kickoffs into the end zone. I wanted to leave all that stuff behind me. I just went out there and focused, aimed more to the right and everything worked out smoothly.”
In addition to the two missed field goals, the War Eagles overcame an interception and a goal-line stand by Southwest. With the score tied 7-7 in the first half, Marist had a second-and-goal at the Panthers 2 and could not get across the goal line.
The fourth quarter was a different story as Marist allowed Southwest only three offensive plays in the final 13 minutes of the game.
“I felt like we had one bad play in each series that kept us from moving the ball,” Chadwick said. “But we kept hanging in there and did a better job of sustaining drives.”
Despite the shocking nature of the defeat, Southwest coach Buck Godfrey was confident his team would bounce back.
“I’m not concerned and I have no qualms about the way we played,” Godfrey said. “I couldn’t ask for more. They gave everything they had for the school and for the community.”