The Marist War Eagles got their revenge on a Woodward Academy team that dominated them the previous two seasons and earned long-time coach Alan Chadwick a milestone victory with a 34-17 win on Friday at Hughes Spalding Stadium.
For Chadwick, who has coached Marist since 1985, it was win No. 354, which put him ahead Robert Davis as the second-winningest coach in Georgia history. Larry Campbell has the most career wins of any Peach State coach with 477.
“It’s just another game,” said Chadwick, whose career record is 354-67. “You’re always looking ahead. You’re always looking to the next one. So, this is nice and it’s a good win against a real good, quality opponent.”
Marist (4-0) is ranked No. 5 in AAAA and Woodward — also nicknamed the War Eagles — is ranked No. 7 and falls to 3-1 after the non-region contest.
Woodward had won the previous two seasons’ matchups a combined 74-14, including 32-0 last year. On Friday, the game was on its way to being a close one as the two headed into halftime tied at 17.
Woodward got a huge first-half performance from Tajh Gary, who had a 60-yard touchdown reception and a 99-yard rushing score. But Marist shut him and the Woodward offense out in the second half and opened third quarter with a 7-minute scoring drive that swayed the momentum its way for good.
In the decisive second half, Marist had three interceptions that led to 10 points. Marist quarterback Chase Abshier helped to seal the win on offense with two second-half rushing touchdowns and finished with three for the game.
“Woodward and us have been rivals for a long time and it was just really special to come out here and get a win after losing to them the past two years,” Abshier said.
Abshier scored the game’s first points with a 6-yard scoring run to put Marist ahead 7-0 with 6:03 left in the first quarter. Woodward answered on its next drive when, on second-and-5 from its own 40, Christian Wylder connected with Gary for a long touchdown to tie the game. Marist fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Woodward recovered on the Marist 18. Three plays later, Brian George kicked a 30-yard field goal to put Woodward head 10-7 with 2:39 left in the first.
Marist answered its next possession with an 80-yard drive that ended with Chris Zowine’s 16-yard run. The drive was highlighted by a 46-yard reception by Kyle Hamilton from Abshier four plays earlier, which put Marist on the Woodward 22.
Later in the second quarter, Marist punted from the Woodward 47 and downed the ball on the 1-yard line. On Woodward’s first play of the drive, Gary rushed up the middle, broke through the line and won the footrace to the end zone, giving Woodward a 17-14 lead with 7:45 remaining in the half.
It was the last time Woodward would lead.
With 10 seconds left in the half, Timmy Bleekrode hit a 31-yard field goal to tie the game.
Marist’s opening drive of the second half lasted 13 plays and more than half the quarter, ending in Abshier’s 1-yard run to give Marist a 24-17 lead with 5:09 left in the third.
“I think that drive made them (Woodward) get away from their run game a little bit,” Chadwick said.
Woodward’s next three possessions ended in interceptions, killing any hope Woodward had of keeping the game competitive. Dean Johnson reeled in two interceptions, with one coming in the first half, and Hamilton and Eric Boyd had a pick each.
Woodward’s first interception of the second half set up another Bleekrode 31-yard field goal that gave Marist a 27-17 cushion with 7:05 left. On the first play of that drive, Abshier found Hamilton on another long reception, this one for 48 yards. Woodward’s next interception gave Marist the ball on the Woodward 35. Five plays later, Abshier ran 2 yards for a score to bring the game to its final margin with 4:52 remaining.
Abshier finished 9 of 19 passing for 180 yards and Hamilton had 94 receiving yards on two catches. In a fashion typical of Chadwick teams, Marist distributed its carries in the run game across 10 different rushers who totaled 254 yards. Abshier led the way with 86 yards on 18 carries, followed Charlie Addicks, who had 79 yards on 11 carries.
Gary led all rushers with 132 yards on just six carries and also led Woodward with 82 receiving yards on six catches.
Woodward Academy 10 7 0 0 - 17
Marist 7 10 7 10 - 34
M - Chase Abshier 6 run (Timmy Bleekrode kick)
W - Tajh Gary 60 pass from Christian Wylder (Brian George kick)
W - George 30 FG
M - Chris Zowine 16 run (Bleekrode kick)
W - Gary 99 run (George kick)
M - Bleekrode 31 FG
M - Abshier 1 run (Bleekrode kick)
M - Bleekrode 31 FG
M - Abshier 2 run (Bleekrode kick)