MARIETTA — Even before its matchup with Class A No. 2 Ringling tonight, Marietta has started the season pretty well.
The Indians are 2-0 for the first time in more than a decade, and have the chance to expand on their early success tonight against the Blue Devils. In the last decade, Marietta has typically been tripped up by Ringling or Elmore City-Pernell within the first two weeks of the season, but this year Ringling fell on Week 3 and the Indians stunned EC-P with a 28-24 come-from-behind victory last week.
Second-year Marietta coach Matt Suffal said last week's rally was probably the best moment of his short time with the Indians. He can top that tonight with an upset of the Class A defending state champions.
"The things that we showed towards the end of the game, I would say that it's definitely the best win I've had as a coach," Suffal said. "The senior leadership really stepped up, took control, wouldn't let anyone get their heads down Friday night.
"They just kept going to the very end, which led to us being successful in the end."
In order to beat Ringling, Marietta is going to need another big game from Tyler Tatum, the 6-foot-2 receiver/strong safety. The senior caught three passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns against Elmore City and added 25 tackles on defense.
Tatum showed the ability to hit the home run in the passing game, turning in touchdown catches of 80 and 85 yards. His 85-yarder with less than two minutes to go gave Marietta the lead after the Indians trailed 18-7 at halftime.
"We worked hard and never gave up, and that gave us the motivation, the confidence for this week," Tatum said of last week's big win. "We've played pretty good; we're starting to get a little better as the season goes."
While Marietta comes into this game with confidence, Ringling enters off a loss to Davis, then an off week. For the second season in a row, Ringling has started 0-1.
Ringling coach Tracy Gandy said that after a 34-28 loss to Davis, the off week was good for his team.
"I know the kids don't like not getting to play on Friday night, but it's a great thing for us. We opened up with Davis and we got to see immediately things we needed to improve on," Gandy said. "We focused 100 percent on addressing our problems. It allowed us to kinda heal up and fix the things we need to fix."
Gandy said Marietta's skill position players like Tatum, 6-3 receiver Adam Sanchez, running back Cash Lang and freshman quarterback Chris Campos all present matchup problems for Ringling. Gandy had an opportunity to watch Marietta live against Elmore City and said the speed factor was impressive for the Indians.
Page 2 of 2 - "They're gonna pose a lot of problems with their athleticism. They're big, fast and athletic and they're gonna pose mismatches for our kids," Gandy said. "The key to us winning is we must control the game with our big offensive line.
"That's one strength of our football team, and to be successful we've got to win those battles up front."
Suffal thinks that win or lose, if the Indians play well it will serve as a good barometer as to how they'll fare in District 2A-4. The Indians and Blue Devils share a common opponent in Davis, which has owned the district in recent years.
"We've started off pretty well for the first time in a long time," Lang said. "We have a lot of young players stepping up, being leaders on the team.
"We have a huge opportunity of surprising people. We'll see what happens."
Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD