ROCHELLE — Nick Marshall picked a good afternoon to explode.
The Wilcox County quarterback had many moments during the regular season like the ones he experienced Dec. 12 — his head coach Mark Ledford said — but none were on the same stage as he was offered at the Georgia Dome.
With a number of college coaches looking on — and thousands of people watching on television — Marshall ran and passed his Patriots to a 30-21 win over Savannah Christian to give Wilcox County its first state football championship.
“I just try to make the plays when the team needs them,” said Marshall, the Telegraph’s 2009 All-Middle Georgia GHSA Football Player of the Year. “I feel like I have that ability.”
Marshall passed for 242 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 67 yards and two more scores in the Patriots’ come-from-behind win over the Raiders.
Marshall shined with his ability to escape trouble, often scrambling to buy plenty of time for his receivers to get open. On one two-point conversion, Marshall scrambled around for 12 seconds before finding a receiver for the completion. He also showed his touch on deep throws and his accuracy on intermediate passes.
“We were on (the receivers) as tight as we could get, but that quarterback is something special,” Savannah Christian head coach Donald Chumley said. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen, the best quarterback we’ve ever played against.”
Marshall led the Patriots on two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull past the Raiders, who dominated time of possession for most of the game. He was also 3-for-3 on two-point conversion passes in the game.
“Athletically, he’s blessed,” Wilcox County head coach Mark Ledford said. “But a lot of kids are blessed athletically. But Nick stays cool. He’s always cool under pressure and handles pressure so well. You always feel when you have him out there that he’s going to make a play, and you feel like you have a chance to win.”
But while Ledford had seen many nights during the regular season like the one the state was treated to on Dec. 12, the coach never expected the attention following the game to be as hectic.
Marshall went from being a bit of an unknown for some people who had no idea where Rochelle was on a map to being a household name among high school football fans. He finished second to Lassiter’s Hutson Mason in voting for All-Classification Player of the Year by the Georgia Sports Writers Association. Ledford was getting phone calls from college coaches from across the country. His junior quarterback was the buzz around the state.
“I think he got a lot of attention from people (around Atlanta) who didn’t know about him,” said Ledford, who added that Georgia offered Marshall a scholarship in the week following the game.
Marshall finished the season with 2,956 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. He also rushed for five touchdowns and intercepted four passes as a cornerback.
The junior will have a big decision to make in the next year as he’s also a highly recruited basketball player. Most recruiting services rank him in the top two in his recruiting class, and he already has a handful of basketball scholarship offers.
“You can’t tell him he reminds you of LeBron (James), but he does,” receiver Lonnie Outlaw said. “When he gets out on the court, he just gets in his own zone. He’ll shoot you from the outside, or he’ll drive and dunk on you.”
Many assume Marshall’s future is in basketball — he openly likes Florida State — but that was all before he likely became the state’s top quarterback recruit in the 2011 recruiting class.
“I’m excited about basketball; we have a team better than last year,” Marshall said. “I think we are good enough to win a state title. I’m not thinking too much past basketball season.”
Recent All-Middle Georgia winners
2009: Nick Marshall, Wilcox County
2008: Julian Burnett, Westside
2007: Tijuan Green, Northside
2006: Bryan Ellis, Peach County
2005: Antonio Henton, Peach County
2004: Alton Sanders, Warner Robins
2003: Travis Evans, Westside and A.J. Bryant, Peach County
2002: Quintez Smith, Dublin
2001: Chansi Stuckey, Northside