BUENA VISTA, Ga. -- Marion County used a strong defensive performance and lengthy scoring drives to take control of and shut out Turner County, 31-0, in the first round of the Class A public-school state playoffs Friday night.
With the win, Marion County (10-1) moves on to the second round of the postseason for the fourth straight year under coach Mike Swaney.
The Eagles have now won 10 or more games in three of those four seasons.
Marion County now takes on Region 4-A rival Dooly County (8-3), a No. 10 seed which knocked off seventh-seeded Lincoln County, 37-13, Friday night in Lincolnton. The quarterfinal pairing is a rematch of an Oct. 18 game that Marion County won, 27-25, in Buena Vista.
Marion County -- the No. 2 seed -- struck first, after Jatavious Brown recovered a fumble on Turner County's 43-yard line on the Rebels' opening drive of the game.
The Eagles took nine plays and took 5:34 off the clock to cover the 43 yards and score on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dustin Eckert to Johnny Royal. The screen pass converted a third-and-10 and Marion County also converted on a fourth-down play at the Turner County 23-yard line to keep the drive alive.
Following a Turner County (4-7) punt early in the second quarter, Marion County took over on its 41 and put together another long drive. This one took 10 plays, covered 59 yards and took another 3:41 off the clock. Eckert completed two third-down passes to sustain the drive and Royal finished things off with a 1-yard touchdown run. A.J. Wells made the extra point and the Eagles held a 14-0 lead with 8:34 to go before halftime.
The Eagles forced Turner County to punt on its next possession and started on its own 23-yard line. Six plays later, Lorenzo Smothers took a handoff from Eckert, went around right end and raced 41 yards for another touchdown. Wells' extra point made it 21-0 Marion County with 4:12 still remaining in the second quarter.
Marion County got one more score before halftime on a 28-yard field goal by Wells and the Eagles took a 24-0 lead into the locker room. Marion County piled up 240 yards of offense and 12 first downs in the first 24 minutes while limiting the Rebels to just 73 total yards, three first downs and 1-for-5 on third-down conversions.
Meanwhile, Marion County converted four of its six third-down chances -- all on passes by Eckert -- and Eckert went 6-for-10 passing for 91 yards and a touchdown. He added 25 yards on five carries as a complement to the tandem of Smothers (six carries, 72 yards, 1 TD) and Royal (14 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD).
After not advancing further than its own 41-yard line in the first half, Turner County got its best scoring opportunity on its first possession of the second half.
The Rebels drove to Marion County's 10 before turning the ball over on downs following an incomplete pass on fourth down. Marion County stopped the Rebels on downs again on Turner County's next drive, bringing things to a halt at the Eagles' 28.
Marion County's offense didn't get much going in the second half, but the Eagles' defense was more than up to the task. Following the two turnovers on downs, Brown snuffed out another Turner County drive with an interception in Marion County territory and Roderick Bishop recorded a fourth-down sack to end another Rebel possession.
The Eagles did add one final touchdown on a 5-yard run by Terence Riley with 1:46 remaining in the game. Royal finished with 108 yards on 27 carries and his one score and Smothers pitched in 76 yards and a touchdown on his 10 totes as Marion County rolled up more than 200 yards rushing in the game.
Turner County -- which finished the season with five losses in its last six games -- picked up chunks of yardage in the second half via its no-huddle passing game, but the Eagles got stops when they needed them, as Turner County went just 2-for-10 on third-down conversions.
Friday at Marion County
Turner County 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Marion County 7 17 0 7 -- 31
Marion - Johnny Royal 20 pass from Dustin Eckert (A.J. Wells kick), 5:34.
Marion - Royal 1 run (Wells kick), 8:03.
Marion - Lorenzo Smothers 41 run (Wells kick), 4:12.
Marion - Wells 28 FG, 0:08.
Marion - Terence Riley 5 run (Wells kick), 1:46.
Records: Turner County 4-7, Marion County 10-1. Next: Marion County (10-1) vs. Dooly County (8-3) (State Playoffs Second Round) Nov. 29.