The winner of the McEachern-North Cobb game went on to win the region title four times in the past five seasons, so there was a lot at stake when they met in the teams’ 3-AAAAAAA opener Friday at North Cobb.
That could be a good sign for McEachern. The Indians got two touchdown runs from Paris Brown and two scoring passes from Malik Evans to Genuine Potts for a 27-21 victory in a game in which they never trailed but did not put away until recovering a fourth-quarter fumble and running out the clock.
It was McEachern’s fourth consecutive victory since opening the season with losses to No. 8 Mill Creek and No. 1 Grayson by a total of nine points.
“It was a good battle. It always is,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “[North Cobb coach Shane] Queen does an outstanding job, and they play hard. This is a big rivalry. To get a big road victory against a really good team and not really play great … you know, it is what it is. We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on. Our kids battled hard and never questioned what was going on or doubted.”
McEachern (4-2, 1-0) took the lead for good at 21-14 on Brown’s 3-yard touchdown run with 2:19 to play in the third quarter. The scoring drive covered 60 yards in 11 plays, nine of which came from a running game that finished with 231 yards on 46 carries.
The Indians forced a punt on North Cobb’s next possession, and Jaron Hull set up McEachern’s next score when he returned the kick 47 yards to the North Cobb 21. On the next play, Evans threw a touchdown pass to a wide-open Potts for a 27-14 lead.
North Cobb (4-2, 0-1) cut the lead to 27-21 early in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Dillon Waye to Christian Singleton, but the Warriors got no closer. North Cobb had two final possessions with a chance to take the lead but were forced to punt on one and fumbled on the first play of the other. McEachern’s Ishmael Bridges recovered the fumble and returned it to the North Cobb 14, and the Indians ran the final three minutes off the clock.
Brown finished with 115 yards rushing on 20 carries, and Jalen Thornton had 86 yards on 16 attempts. Evans was 8-of-16 passing for 108 yards.
Both teams scored quickly on their opening possessions of the game. McEachern went 80 yards in three plays, aided by 20 yards in penalties, and scored on a 37-yard pass from Evans to Potts for a 7-0 lead just 31 seconds into the game.
After a short kickoff, North Cobb answered with a six-play, 57-yard drive and tied the score 7-7 on a 6-yard run by Singleton with 9:31 to play in the quarter.
McEachern scored again on its second possession, driving 80 yards in 11 plays and taking a 14-7 lead on Brown’s 2-yard run.
The only other first-half points came on a 30-yard return of a blocked punt by North Cobb’s J.P. Phillips that made it 14-14 with one minute to play in the first quarter. It was the sixth touchdown in six games this season for North Cobb’s defense or special teams.
Waye was 11-of-24 passing for 142 yards, and the Warriors rushed for 121 yards, led by Singleton’s 53 yards on 13 carries.
“I’ve been saying this since last year, this five-game region stuff is tough,” Hockman said. “It’s hard on the kids when you’re playing so many games and you’ve been working two, two and a half months and nothing really matters. So to see us perform when it matters, when the game’s on the line, when it’s fourth down, when we get a turnover, when it matters … what I’m taking away is that I think we’re prepared for a good region run, and we’re going to take one day at a time and for sure focus on that. I’m excited about where we’re at, but we’ve got a lot of room for improvement and a lot of tough kids.”
McEachern - 14-0-13-0 - 27
North Cobb - 14-0-0-7 - 21
M - Genuine Potts 37 pass from Malik Evans (Ruben Rodriquez kick)
N - Christian Singleton 6 run (Anthony Rodriguez kick)
M - Paris Brown 2 run (Rodriquez kick)
N - J.P. Phillips 30 blocked-punt return (Rodriguez kick)
M - Brown 3 run (Rodriquez kick)
M - Potts 21 pass from Evans (kick failed)
N - Singleton 12 pass from Dillon Waye (Rodriguez kick)