Semifinal Preview: A historic look at Thomas County Central versus Marist

The pride of Georgia High School Football exists across the state and the most compelling matchups throughout the years have come when a South Georgia powerhouse is put to the test against an Atlanta juggernaut. This dynamic generates statewide attention and has been at the heart of some of the most memorable games played over the past decades. This Friday, one of the most storied South Georgia versus Atlanta matchups will be reignited as Marist hosts Thomas County Central in the Class 6A semifinals—pairing the two programs up for the first time since 2013 and ninth time since the inaugural 1996 meeting. Kickoff will be at 8 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on the Peachtree Sports Network and Atlanta News First app.

Marist head coach Alan Chadwick, who is in his 39th season at the helm, led his team to a 48-21 road win over Roswell in the quarterfinals and reflected on the history surrounding this Friday’s home semifinal against Thomas County Central.

“There is no question it brought back those memories when the matchup was set,” said Chadwick. “Of course, all of our coaches that are here now, for the most part, were there for those years. At least four or five of them were with us during that time. We knew it was going to be a challenge and so we started seeing what they were about this year and looking at the film. They have a really good football team, they are very efficient on offense and they don’t make mistakes. They are very athletic, tough and physical on defense.”

Thomas County Central is currently ranked No. 2 in Class 6A and Marist is No. 7. As a result, both teams have been ranked in all nine games played between the schools over the years. This will be the fifth time that the programs have faced off in the semifinals, but the first time that a semifinal between the two will not be played at the Georgia Dome. Instead, Thomas County Central will take the 250-mile trip north to Marist with a chance to play in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the title.

“It’s South Georgia Football. You know they take it pretty seriously down there,” said Chadwick. “And it’s the biggest show in town. Places like Thomas County, Moultrie, Lowndes, Valdosta and all those places like that down there. We had some great matchups with them. We opened the season with them in kickoff classics and then would end up matching up with them in the playoffs and semifinals. That was two years in a row so they beat us four times to open the series.”


Thomas County Central scored one point victories in both 1996 games—earning a 32-31 win in the Corky Kell Classic and then a 22-21 semifinal win. The next year, the Yellow Jackets swept the season once again—scoring a 34-16 win in the opener and a 34-28 victory in the semis. The two teams did not meet again until the 2002 semifinals and that was the only time the game needed overtime to determine the outcome. At the time, the overtime format was different with five minute periods and if neither team scored, then the winner was determined based off penetration. Thomas County Central earned the 35-34 win to improve to 5-0 all-time against Marist and coach Chadwick recalled how close the game was.

“My favorite result was obviously in 2003 when we finally beat them,” said Chadwick. “But the most competitive, hard-fought and physical game was back before the current playoff format [in 2002]. You used to have two five minute overtimes. We had them stopped on 4th-and-6 right at midfield and if we stop them we win the game on penetration. And darn if they didn’t throw a flare out of the backfield to Joe Burns and he turns it on and we had a middle linebacker playing both ways that was playing on a bad leg and he tackles him and they just get the first down and so they beat us on penetration like that.”

Thomas County Central head coach Ed Pilcher’s team ended up falling in the finals and finished 2002 with a 14-1 record. Then in 2003, he led his team to the semifinals again, but Chadwick’s War Eagles scored a 35-21 win and went on to capture their second state title and first since 1989. Thomas County Central, won five state titles in a six-year span from 1992-97 and is looking for its first trip to the finals since the 2002 season. Marist most recently won a state title in 2020 and has reached the finals four times since its 2003 championship run. After playing their first six clashes in the Georgia Dome, Marist hosted the Yellow Jackets in 2012 and fell 21-17. Thomas County Central served as hosts in 2013 and earned another narrow win (28-21). A decade has passed since the most recent meeting in 2013 and Marist will look to beat Thomas County Central for the first time since its 2003 state championship season on Friday.

“I think last week, our challenge was trying to slow Roswell down because they were scoring 50 points per game,” said Chadwick. “I think our challenge this week is with our offense and finding a way to score enough points to win.”


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply