DICKSON — About 10 minutes after the conclusion of Friday’s season opener, Marietta senior running back Jonathan Escobedo was stretching his legs in the end zone.
Cramps took a toll on his legs. He had to be carried off the field by his teammates with just over a minute remaining. But his impact had already been made.
Escobedo rushed for 259 yards on 15 carries, including fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 70 and 55 yards, rallying Marietta for a 14-12 victory over Dickson at Ernest Moore Field.
“I’m going to thank my line and my full back and my wing back,” he said. “They were blocking. It wasn’t just me. It was everybody. And I just cut up field and saw an opening.”
Escobedo’s long runs helped Marietta (1-0) to overcome 153 yards in penalties.
“A lot of our penalties, I believe, were just our kids being a little over-aggressive,” Marietta coach Matt Suffal said. “Our wide receivers really wanted to make those key blocks down the field and understand how important they are. So a lot of that stuff was trying to give too much effort.”
Steve Day was making his debut as Dickson coach — the fourth head coach in as many seasons for the Comets.
Day says first-game jitters and poor snaps plagued Dickson’s offense at times.
There were less jitters on defense.
Other than two long runs by Escobedo, the Comets’ defense held firm.
A Thomas Johnson fumble at midfield on the first play of the Comets’ second offensive series and a personal foul gave Marietta starting field position at the Dickson 34-yard line.
Dickson forced a turnover on downs after the Comets defense stuffed Campos’ fourth-down run.
Marietta had three other drives stall inside Dickson territory after interceptions thrown by junior quarterback Kyler Irwin.
Cole Watkins picked off a fade pass near the goal line in the second quarter that was intended for Michael McCarroll. Brayden Watkins recorded the Comets’ second pick of Irwin in the final minute of the first half. Defensive pressure off the edge by Jyson Grider forced Irwin to roll to his right in the third quarter and created an interception for Spencer Throneberry.
“The defense played really, really, really well,” Day said. “Obviously, you had the two long runs, and when you have a kid (Escobedo) who can run the ball like that, one is bound to happen per game. But the defense kept us in the game the whole time.”
Campos exited the game on the final play of the first quarter with an ankle injury and was held out for the remainder of the game.
The contest remained scoreless until just over three minutes remaining until intermission.
Aided by three personal fouls on Marietta, Dickson (0-1) drove 97 yards, capped off by Chance Sweeten’s 3-yard run behind the left side of the offensive line.
Senior quarterback Reames led the Comets with 76 rushing yards on 18 carries, and through the air, went 5 of 12 for 52 yards.
Escobedo’s two long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter put Marietta ahead for good.
“We knew coming in that we weren’t very deep,” Day said. “The first game always gets you, but we didn’t think the cramps would get us that hard. (Escobedo) is a great player. We knew all week, all summer that we had to wrap that kid up because he’s special. We had to get a track on him and not let him cut back, which we did a couple of times.”
Dickson answered in the final minute.
Reames throwing a fade to Johnson, who used all of his 6-foot, 2-inch frame to out-leap a Marietta cornerback in one-on-one coverage in the back of the end zone, cutting the deficit to 14-12.
The snap on the ensuing 2-point conversion was high and Sweeten was stopped short of the goal line.
Day wishes he could have a do-over on the conversion attempt.
“We had been hitting them with outside zone the whole night,” he said. “We were having some success there. I was hoping that we could just pound one in from three yards out and we should have went with the outside zone because they were bringing it inside and we should have run outside. That’s on me.”
After Marietta’s Garrett Vinson recovered the onside kick, the Indians nearly fumbled the ball away in the victory formation, but they recovered the loose ball and were able to run out the clock.
“Our young men just finally got into the groove of the game and understood that they’re good enough to win a lot of football games,” Suffal said. “I think when we quit pressing, when we quit trying to do too much, and we just play football, our young men do a tremendous job of going out and playing Marietta football.”