FORSYTH, Ga. — For the second time in three years, Blessed Trinity will vie for the state title.
“It’s unlike anything,” BT head coach Tim McFarlin said. “It’s just such a privilege to get to play for the state championship and we feel very honored.”
The Titans earned a state championship berth Friday night with a stout performance against Mary Persons. And in continuing the theme of Blessed Trinity’s run, it was its defense that powered their 28-7 win.
BT gave up just a single score to the Bulldogs who averaged 33 points per game prior to Friday’s semifinal matchup. The Bulldogs’ seven points was their lowest total since their second game of the 2014 season.
The Titans have allowed just three touchdowns in the playoffs against three teams ranked in the top-five in the state.
“The defense has played outstanding,” McFarlin said. “They kept giving us great field position. When you stop [Mary Persons] deep in their own territory and get the ball at midfield, that’s huge.”
The Titans also forced multiple sacks and Jake Rudolph recovered a fumble.
In addition to the Titan’s defense, McFarlin said the offensive line has been crucial to their postseason success this season.
It’s an offensive line that was all new for 2017, with all five starters from last year’s squad graduated.
“They have just matured and developed so well,” McFarlin said.
His offensive line powered the Titans rushing game to another 200-plus yard performance. The running back duo of Elijah Green and Steele Chambers combined for all four of BT’s touchdowns, with Green compiling 140 yards rushing.
Quarterback Jake Smith and Ryan Davis also connected for 67 yards through the air.
“[Smith and Davis] really give us balance with the run game and we’re very fortunate to have them,” McFarlin said. “They’ve been playing together since the fourth grade and you can feel that connection out there on the field.
Chambers got the scoring started with an eight-yard touchdown run on BT’s opening possession.
BT extended their lead to 14-0 after Green rushed five times on the Titans’ eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. Chambers capped of the drive with a 25-yard backside screen, trotting untouched into the end zone.
After missing a 49-yard field goal and another defensive stop, BT looked poised to extend their lead. However, a Jake Smith interception allowed the Bulldogs to drive down the field and score in the final minute of the second quarter.
It was quite a momentum shift for Mary Persons, who didn’t have much to cheer about in the first half.
In the locker room, McFarlin took the blame for the turnover, but told his team that they had overcome adversity all season, and this was another chance.
His team responded.
The Titan’s opened the second half by forcing a turnover on downs with Raleigh Barden recording a sack on fourth-and-two to end the Bulldogs’ drive.
BT’s defense forced another punt, setting up their offense to extend the margin.
Utilizing Green for most of the drive, BT drove 69 yards on eight plays, capped off by a 15-yard Green rushing score. That gave the Titans a 21-7 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
BT then forced a three and out to set up the offense at their own 37-yard line.
Following a 30-yard rush from Green to open the drive, BT was in the end zone just three plays later on a 28-yard scamper by Chambers to go up 28-7.
Another three and out from Mary Persons allowed BT to run out the final five minutes of clock, followed by a state championship berth celebration.
The Titans will face region foes Marist in the Class 4A state championship game next Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Marist (14-0) downed BT 25-24 in the regular season, one of BT’s two losses on the season (12-2).
“Right now, we’re going to celebrate this one,” McFarlin said. “We will start thinking about Marist [Saturday].”
“We’re tired and we are going to get the soreness out,” he said. “When you go 15 weeks, that’s a long season. But we think we have one more in us.”