Hillgrove scored on its first three possessions for a 21-0 lead than five minutes into the game and held off eighth-ranked McEachern 31-17 in the battle of Powder Springs rivals at Hillgrove on Friday.
Richardre Bagley opened the scoring with a 77-yard run on the second play from scrimmage and completed it with a 37-yard touchdown with 4:51 to play. It was part of a season-best effort for Bagley, who finished with 236 yards on 29 carries.
The victory allowed Hillgrove (9-1, 7-1) to wrap up second place in Region 4-AAAAAA and secure a first-round home game in the Class AAAAAA playoffs, which begin next week. McEachern (8-2, 6-2) finished in third place and will open the playoffs on the road. North Cobb won the 4-AAAAAA championship with a victory against Campbell.
McEachern played more than half of the game without quarterback Ty Clemons, who suffered a serious leg injury in the second quarter and left the stadium in an ambulance. Clemons, who entered the game as the Indians’ leading rusher with 1,154 yards, finished with 14 yards on five carries and was 4-of-7 passing for 84 yards. He also scored both McEachern touchdowns on short runs.
In his absence, the Indians turned to a combination of freshman quarterback Bailey Hockman and several players in the Wildcat formation, but they struggled to move the ball. They managed a 38-yard field goal by Dennis Dominguez to cut the lead to 21-17 just before halftime but were shut out in the second half.
Hillgrove finished with a 394-282 advantage in total offense.
Bagley’s first touchdown run gave Hillgrove a 7-0 lead with 11:16 to play in the first quarter, and the Hawks got the ball back on the next play from scrimmage when Quincey Nelson intercepted a Clemons pass at the McEachern 34. Two plays later, Elijah Ironside threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Omar Black for a 14-0 lead with 10:43 to play in the quarter.
After forcing a McEachern punt, Hillgrove drove 46 yards in five plays and scored on a 22-yard pass from Ironside to Emanuel Beal to make it 21-0.
McEachern responded with touchdowns on its next two possessions. Hillgrove had a chance to add to the lead in the second quarter but turned the ball over on downs on consecutive possessions, at the McEachern 1-yard line and the 22.
Ironside was 10-of-22 passing for 137 yards to give him 2,089 yards for the season.
McEachern – 14-3-0-0 – 17
Hillgrove – 21-0-3-7 – 31
H – Richardre Bagley 77 run (Andrew Gaughn kick)
H – Omar Black 26 pass from Elijah Ironside (Gaughn kick)
H – Emanuel Beal 39 pass from Ironside (Gaughn kick)
M – Ty Clemons 2 run (Dennis Dominguez kick)
M – Clemons 5 run (Dominguez kick)
M – Dominguez 38 field goal
H – Gaughn 22 field goal
H – Bagley 37 run (Gaughn kick)