Editor's note: This story ran in The Telegraph on Dec. 13, 2009 after Wilcox County beat Savannah Christian to win the GHSA Class A state title.
ATLANTA — Tay Porter swears that his quarterback Nick Marshall makes the kinds of plays he made Saturday regularly during the season.
“Oh yeah, nothing surprises us about what he does,” the Wilcox County receiver said.
But those earlier plays didn’t come on television at the Georgia Dome with the whole state watching.
On the biggest stage he has ever played on, Marshall showed that he had plenty of big plays left in his repertoire.
Marshall accounted for 309 yards of offense and led the Patriots (13-2) to three second-half touchdowns to beat previously undefeated Savannah Christian 30-21 in the GHSA Class A championship game. It’s the first state championship in school history for the Patriots, who previously lost in the 2007 state championship game to ECI.
“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.”
The junior quarterback was largely unstoppable in the second half in leading the Patriots to touchdowns on their final three drives, including 16 unanswered points in the final eight minutes.
Marshall, who had a productive first half, as well, started to work some magic on the Trojans’ second drive of the second half. Trailing 14-6, Marshall led the Patriots on a 71-yard drive that included a 29-yard pass to Lonnie Outlaw, a 16-yard run through the heart of the Raiders’ defense, 1-yard touchdown sneak and two-point conversion pass to tie the game.
“I just try to make the plays when the team needs them,” said Marshall, who passed for 242 yards and rushed for 67. “I feel like I have that ability.”
After the Raiders answered with touchdown with eight minutes left in the game, Marshall immediately responded on the second play of the ensuing drive. He lofted a bomb to Porter, who caught the ball over his shoulder, then lost it while falling, batted it around and finally corralled it while on his back. The 52-yard pass put Wilcox County on Savannah Christian’s 5-yard line.
“I didn’t know I had the ball,” Porter said. “I looked it in, but I thought someone hit it. It looked down, and there it is in my hands. Just an instinct, I guess.”
Marshall scored on a 5-yard run on the next play to pull the Patriots to within a point. Wilcox County, which regularly attempts two-point conversions, took the lead when Marshall scrambled around for 12 seconds before finding Jatarius Jackson for the conversion, giving the Patriots a 22-21 lead.
“It’s the best 2-point play we have,” Ledford said with a laugh about the improvisation.
It was one of many instances during which Marshall scrambled about before finally running forward or passing to an open receiver.
“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.”
The Patriots’ defense forced its first three-and-out on the Raiders’ next possession giving Marshall the ball back with six minutes.
Despite scoring most of time on quick drives, Marshall adapted his style and milked the clock. He continued to advance the ball, however, until a few penalties pushed the Patriots back to third-and-21. Marshall picked up 10 yards on third down, then found Marcus Griffin splitting across the back of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown on fourth down. Marshall tossed a fade pass to Jonathan Howard for the two-point conversion and a 30-21 lead.