Well, so much for the belief that defenses are traditionally ahead of offenses at the beginning of a football season.
On Thursday night, Rome and Marietta staged an epic offensive showdown at Barron Stadium, combining for 92 points and 1,000-plus yards, as the Wolves held on for a 51-41 victory over the Blue Devils, capping Day 1 of the three-day Corky Kell Classic.
How exhausting was this win? During the halftime break, Rome coach John Reid seemed at a loss to describe his defense's late meltdown in the second quarter, surrendering a Baby Hail Mary touchdown with no time left, along with an untimed two-point conversion to Marietta.
Roughly two hours later in the supposed post-game glow, while speaking to 11Alive's Wes Blankenship on the field, Reid found a way to articulate his thoughts on the high-scoring opener, along with countering Blankenship's claim that Rome had essentially dominated the first 24 minutes of action.
"I don't remember 'controlling' the first half," said Reid with a tinge of coachspeak sarcasm, while wearing a look that was equal parts relief and consternation.
The coach might have felt uneasy about his team's chances on Thursday, but this was certainly Rome's game to lose after the first quarter.
The Wolves allowed an early touchdown to Marietta receiver and University of Tennessee commit Ramel Keyton (14 catches, 191 yards, 4 TDs), before responding in a quick and forceful manner, notching two rushing touchdowns (Xavier Roberts, Jamious Griffin) and one receiving score (Griffin) in a six-minute span.
Soon after that, Rome (1-0) enjoyed a 16-point spurt late in the second quarter, the result of Roberts' 48-yard touchdown reception (perfect pass from quarterback Knox Kadum), a way-too-easy safety (flubbed long snap from Marietta) and Griffin's 10-yard scoring run.
In a flash, Rome (back-to-back 5A state championships for 2016/17) had vaulted to a 37-13 advantage and would seemingly cruise into halftime.
But alas, the momentum changed substantially on one play: With 4.1 seconds left in the second quarter, Marietta lined up for an obvious Hail Mary attempt. Quarterback Harrison Bailey dropped back, danced in the pocked a bit and then air-mailed a soft flier to the right corner of the end zone.
At the ball's apex, Blue Devils receiver Taji Johnson jumped high and made a dazzling diving catch, securing both feet inbounds before his shoulders hit the ground.
Marietta quickly executed a two-point conversion and sliced the deficit to 16.
The second half started slowly, but resembled the first half's frenetic pace in due time. Simply put, neither defense had the depth, speed, power nor endurance to shut down the opposition; it merely hoped for crucial turnovers in unwanted spots.
Hence, the 10-point final spread. In the fourth quarter, Marietta (0-1) fumbled away two red-zone opportunities, precluding a last-minute rally and robbing Bailey of the chance to record a seventh (or even eighth) touchdown pass.
For the night, the quarterback rolled for 443 yards passing and six scores. Marietta's No. 2 wideout, Arik Gilbert, collected 14 balls for 170 yards and one TD.
In victory, Rome offered more balance with its unstoppable offense:
**Kadum accounted for 310 total yards (92 rushing) and three touchdowns.
**Roberts rolled for 159 total yards (144 receiving) and three scores.
**And Griffin logged 30 touches (28 carries) for 197 yards and three touchdowns, as well.