Marist’s biggest test of the season to date will come Friday night on the road at undefeated Chamblee.
First place in Region 6-AAAA, Division A is at stake. Perhaps just as important, the game essentially serves as a litmus test for two teams eyeing deep playoff runs.
“The coaches [in Chamblee] have done a great job up there,” said Marist head coach Alan Chadwick. “They’ve gone out and recruited well — they’re a very physical, very good looking athletic team.
“I think they’re strong defensively and they run the option like we do … it should make for a very interesting matchup.”
Both squads are heading into this week’s showdown riding a wave of momentum.
Marist throttled Stone Mountain 34-8 last week while the Bulldogs are coming off a 34-0 trouncing of Lithonia.
For Bulldogs coach Allen Johnson, the rivalry runs deep.
A Chamblee grad, he is well aware of the fact that the Bulldogs have not beaten Marist since 1982.
“I’ve got uncles who played on that [Chamblee] team,” Johnson said. “It’s a big game … there’s a lot of trash talk going on.”
Johnson, in his first year at the helm, is an admirer of the Marist program.
“The thing that jumps out at me about Marist is their discipline,” he said. “Those kids are well coached … they know their assignments.
“We have to be just as disciplined as they are.”
As with any other game, Friday night’s tilt in Chamblee will likely come down to matchups.
Perhaps the most intriguing one involves how the War Eagles defense will stack up against Chamblee’s potent option attack keyed by quarterback Jordan Branch and fullback Dezmin Reed.
“He’s got Herschel [Walker’s] number and he looks like Herschel,” said Chadwick, of Reed. “They make no bones about the fact that they want him running the ball quite a bit. It’s going to be a big challenge for our defensive front.”
As has been the case all season, Marist senior strong safety Nick Carrier and middle linebacker Jason Morris will be called on to disrupt the Bulldogs’ offensive game plan.
On the other side of the coin, Chamblee’s attack-style defense, led by blue chip end Davin Bellamy, will look to slow down Marist’s version of the option, spearheaded by quarterback Myles Willis and dual rushing/receiving threat Gray King.
“We’ve got some guys that fly around to the ball … that’s what we’re going to have to do Friday night,” said Johnson.