JEFFERSON — When Jefferson and Marist kickoff on Tuesday, it’ll be the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense.
It has "epic matchup" written all over it and what better way to settle who’s the best in Class 4A than in the state title game.
No. 1 Marist and second-ranked Jefferson are set to battle for the top prize in Class 4A on Tuesday at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and can be heard live on FM 102.9 WDUN (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN LIVE.)
“Marist is giving up the fewest points in the state in any classification,” Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart said. “And they score about 40-something points. It’s just really impressive as it should be when you’re in the state championship game. We’ve gotta big task in front of us, but we like to think they’ve got a sizable task in front of them, too.”
The War Eagles defense has surrendered just 2.8 points per game, and that’s all season. The Dragons, on the other hand, are scoring a Class 4A best 44 ppg.
And while Jefferson has been a big-play team this year, behind leading rusher and quarterback Malaki Starks, Cathcart said they’ll have to find a way to get the playmakers in space against the stingy Marist defense.
“We’ve had such a big-play offense this year with Malaki, Jordan Perry, Kolton Jones and the stable of running backs,” he said. “We don’t throw it a lot, but 3/4s of our passes have gone for touchdowns and Marist just doesn’t give allow big plays very often. So, we’ve got to be comfortable in whatever the way the game unfolds. We’ve got to be able to get our athletes into space and execute.”
The Dragons' offense has been fueled by a massive rushing attack all season. Overall, 19 running backs have rushed for 3,989 yards -- 7.9 yards per carry – and 56 touchdowns. Malaki Starks (146-1,457 rushing, 24 TDs), Jones (45-530 yards TDs), Perry (47-405, 3 TDs) and Reese Johnson (69-370, 2 TDs) are tops on the team. Carter Stephenson has added 279 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns.
Starks’ performance in the semifinals against Benedictine was one that will be remembered for a long time in Jefferson. The junior Power 5 athlete rushed for 321 yards, four touchdowns, passed for another and sealed the win with an interception in the endzone.
Starks has done his homework on the War Eagles and says they play hard and are physical and smart.
“A team that is smart, plays hard and is physical is very dangerous, but so are we,” Starks said. “It’s going to be a game of heart, who can hustle for four quarters straight and not give up.”