SAVANNAH -- Fueled by the running of Marlin Latson, Kendarius Dukes, and Lamir Cohens, the Memorial Day School Blue Thunder advanced to the GISA Class A state championship game for the fourth consecutive season. There, they'll face a rematch with Westwood, which hammered them in last season's title game, 31-12. Westwood advanced with a 35-28 overtime win against Thomas Jefferson on Friday in Camilla, the site of next Friday's championship contest.
The Blue Thunder, who finished as state champs in 2008 and 2009, routed the Terrell Academy Eagles, 40-3, on a cold Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
Earl Washington threw four touchdown passes, three of them to Jonathan DeLoach. "Our underclassmen carried us (Friday night)," Memorial coach Michael Thompson said. "Latson and Dukes are getting better every week."
Latson returned the opening kickoff 31 yards to Memorial 46. On second-and-7, Washington ran 9 yards on a quarterback keeper to move the ball into Eagles territory. On the next play, the Blue Thunder dodged a bullet when Washington rolled right and was almost intercepted by Raleigh Carlson. Latson, Dukes, Cohens, Washington, and Chance Jackson took turns running the ball as the Blue Thunder marched up the field. On third-and-6 from the 17, Washington threw left to DeLoach, who caught the ball running and took it in for a touchdown. Donald Bulloch kicked the extra point to put Memorial up, 7-0.
After the Blue Thunder defense stopped the Eagles, the offense went back to work. On second-and-6 from the 26, Dukes ran left for 41 yards. Two plays later, Cohens ran 15 yards for a first down at the Eagles 14. Two plays after that, Washington threw left to DeLoach for a 10-yard touchdown. Bulloch's extra point made it, 14-0, where it remained at the end of the first quarter.
The Blue Thunder got another drive going in the second quarter, when Latson ran 14 yards to the Eagles' 38. On third-and-20, after back-to-back penalties, Dukes ran 10 yards to the left and flipped the ball to Cohens, who ran 8 more yards to set up a fourth-and-2 at the Terrell Academy 40. On fourth down, Latson ran for for an 18 yards and a first down. Four plays later, Dukes ran 7 yards for a touchdown. Bulloch's extra point made it 21-0.
The Blue Thunder got one more score in the first half on a 46-yard pass over the middle from Washington to DeLoach. Bulloch's extra point made it 28-0 at the half.
Behind the running of Grimsley and Gray Rowe, the Eagles, who were without injured starting running back Josh Wardrip, moved the ball more effectively in the second half, but only managed an Alan Stewart field for their only points in the game.
"I thought we got complacent when we went up, 28-0," Thompson said.
With the score 28-3, the Blue Thunder took over on their own 49. On first down, Casey Jones sacked Washington for a 6-yard loss. On second-and-16, Latson appeared to be trapped, but he broke a tackle and ran through a hole in the defense for a 57-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good, but Memorial was in command, 34-3.
A 54-yard run by Cohens at the end of the third quarter put the Blue Thunder back in scoring range. A 15-yard run by Dukes set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Washington to Deric Wright.
"I want (Friday night's) game to be a lesson to the boys," Thompson said. "I'm happy for them that they won, but they have to play hard every down."