Hillgrove turned four South Cobb turnovers into 28 points in a game in which both offenses struggled early and went on to beat the Eagles 37-14 in what had the feel of a playoff game Friday at Hillgrove.
The victory moved Hillgrove (6-3, 5-2) into a tie for second place in Region 4-AAAAAA on a night when a loss could have eliminated the Hawks from the playoff race. The Hawks will finish the regular season against region champion McEachern next week and could still make the playoffs even with a loss to the Indians. South Cobb (6-3, 4-3), which at one point this season was in first place in the region, fell into fifth with the loss.
Two fumble recoveries by Cameron Kowalewski, an interception by DyKari Hickey and a fumble return for a touchdown by Justin Haney enabled Hillgrove to score 35 points in a 15-minute span late that began late in the second quarter.
“That’s two weeks in a row they’ve played really well,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said of his defense. “We got the big turnover by DyKari Hickey that kinda got us rolling. We had great field position. I thought we should’ve scored more early but we didn’t for whatever reason. I’m sure South Cobb playing well had something to do with it.”
South Cobb was playing without quarterback Stephon Masha, who was out with an injury. In his place, the Eagles used sophomore Kylil Carter. The Eagles finished with 192 yards, but they struggled for much of the game and didn’t score until the final three minutes of the game after Hillgrove had built a 37-0 lead. Carter was 5-for-15 passing for 35 yards and carried 19 times for 19 yards.
Hillgrove failed to make a first down on three of its first five possessions before it took control in the final four minutes of the first half. Kowalewski’s first fumble recovery led to a 12-yard touchdown pass from Elijah Ironside to Justin Denton, and Hickey’s interception led to an 18-yard pass from Troy Thompson to Marcus Bowens that made it a 13-0 lead with 42 seconds remaining in the half.
Kowalewski set up the Hawks’ third touchdown when he took the ball away from a scrambling Carter on the third play of the third quarter, and Haney’s returned with 1:47 to play in the quarter capped the 35-point run.
South Cobb – 0-0-0-14 – 14
Hillgrove – 0-13-22-2 – 37
H – Justin Denton 12 pass from Elijah Ironside (Andrew Gaughn)
H – Marcus Bowens 18 pass from Troy Thompson (kick failed)
H – Richardre Bagley 1 run (Evan Engram pass from Bagley)
H – Engram 16 pass from Thompson (Gaughn kick)
H – Justin Haney 27 fumble return (Gaughn kick)
H – Safety, Josh Ellis tackled quarterback in end zone
S – Chris Simon 60 interception return (Carlos Saldana kick)
S – Chauncey Ingram 13 run (Saldana kick)