Marquis Willis, Defense, Win War of Attrition

Rajath Prabhakar, Director of Design

On a cold, rainy night in Roswell, GA, the 3-0 Hornets played host to the 2-2 Raiders, the latter of which was coming off a heartbreaking loss against West Forsyth. Meanwhile, Roswell’s perennially stellar defense would face its first real test against an offense averaging just over 30 points per game. 

1st Quarter

Walton won the toss and deferred. Roswell’s opening drive was shaky from the get-go, struggling to hold on to the ball in the pouring rain. The drive ended with a Robbie Roper (11) fumble, which was recovered by Walton’s Titus McBride (12) just inside the 30. 

Roswell fumbled again on their next drive following a turnover on downs, but this time Shaun Spence (11) fell on it. Roper proceeded to find Marquis Willis (12) on a nice fade for 26 yards to get out of the shadow of his end zone. 2 plays later, the junior quarterback linked up with Michael Fitzgerald (12) for a 71-yard touchdown. Caden Long (12) made the extra point. 

Roswell 7, Walton 0

After the ensuing Walton 3-and-out, Roswell got the ball back in Raider territory. 7 plays later, Roper’s pass was intercepted by linebacker Preston Evans (12), who returned it to the 14. Kenny Djaha (12) got 3 yards on 3rd and 1 to end the first quarter. 

Roswell 7, Walton 0

2nd Quarter

The drive stalled just inside the Hornet 40. Punt. Following Roswell’s ensuing 3 and out, it was Braylen Stokes (10) who gashed the Roswell secondary en route to a 29-yard touchdown. Connor Cummins (12) nailed the extra point. 

Roswell 7, Walton 7

Walton got the ball back after the Hornets stalled again, this time inside the 40. Walton took around 4 minutes off the clock via a 10 play, 60 yard drive. Connor Cummins’ 38 yard attempt was good. 

Roswell 7, Walton 10

On the ensuing drive, Roswell got all the way down to the Walton 26. However, they could not stop the clock and the half ended on a Robbie Roper spike.  

Roswell 7, Walton 10. 

3rd Quarter

Walton’s opening second half possession got off to a disastrous start. Braylen Stokes fumbled the handoff, but luckily for him it was recovered by Walton. Two plays later, Zach Roszman found Kenny Djaha for 15, but the latter’s fumble, the 2nd in 3 plays, was recovered by Kuba Evans (12). 

Roper gave the ball right back, as his pass was intercepted by Nic Hester (12). After getting the ball back, this time on a fumble by Roszman, the two teams traded three and outs. Starting from their 40, Roswell put together a 5 play, 47 yard drive. Caden Long made the 31-yarder. 

Roswell 10, Walton 10

4th Quarter

Roswell started their first possession of the 4th on their own 33. After Ryan Stephens (11) was brought down for a 1-yard loss, Roper found Shaun Spence for an 11 yard gain. However, his fumble was recovered by Walton on the Hornets’ 43. The fumble was Roswell’s 4th turnover of the ballgame. 

Fresh off the turnover, the Raiders proceeded to take nearly 5 minutes off the clock, going 43 yards in 10 plays. The drive was capped off by AJ Brown (11), who found the end zone on 4th and goal to give the Raiders the lead. Cummins made the PAT. 

Roswell 10, Walton 17

Roswell couldn’t do much of anything on the ensuing drive, going three-and-out and giving Walton a chance to ice away the game. However, after Djaha’s 11-yard run, the senior was stuffed on his next two carries, and Walton had to punt, forcing the Hornets to go 98 yards in 88 seconds. 

“We were very focused and on edge, waiting to see who would step up on offense and make the big play we needed. ” said cornerback Ethan Nation (10)

The drive started with Roper finding Spence for a three yard gain. He then connected with Marquis Willis for 37 yards. 

With 1:20 left in the game, Robbie Roper connected with Marquis Willis for a 37 yard pickup. The Hornets beat the Raiders, 23-17 (NFHS Network, Graphics Credit: Rajath Prabhakar)

Willis beat Walton’s zone with a simple dig route, and his speed turned what probably should have been no more than a 15-20 yard gain into a 30+ yard gain, stopping the clock to boot. 

Roper followed up the 37 yard reception with a 48 yard reception, again to the star wide receiver. 

With 1:12 remaining in regulation, Robbie Roper’s reception with Marquis Willis set up the game tying touchdown. The Roswell Hornets beat the Walton Raiders, 23-17. (NFHS Network, Graphics Credit: Rajath Prabhakar)

This play was just a busted coverage. Willis, the slot receiver is running a fly. The near-side safety (circled in black), apparently forgetting there is nobody behind him, just lets Willis get behind him. Roper’s pass is on the money, putting Roswell inside the 10.

After a Walton pass interference, Willis finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Caden Long’s PAT tied the game. 

Roswell 17, Walton 17

Overtime

Kenny Djaha started the drive with a 5-yard gain, but it was nullified by a holding penalty. After a false start penalty, Roszman’s pass was intercepted by Ethan Nation, the sophomore’s 5th in 4 games. 

Said Nation on the play: 

“I knew that they were going to take a shot on me. They didn’t throw to me the whole game and they expected me to be sleeping. When the ball was in the air I knew it was mine no matter who I’m going against… and to get the pick in overtime to seal that game is the best feeling in the world”.  

The pick puts Ethan Nation in a 3-way tie for the state lead in interceptions. 

Forcing Walton to come away empty handed, Roswell found itself in the position of needing merely a field goal to win.  

After Ryan Stephens’ 2-yard gain, Robbie Roper connected with Shaun Spence for a 14 yard gain. Ryan Stephens waltzed into the end zone on the next play, giving Roswell the walk-off touchdown. 

Final. Roswell 23, Walton 17

After surviving this thriller, the Hornets will  travel to Cherokee County to take on the Etowah Eagles, who sit at 0-4 fresh off a 28-10 loss at North Cobb.