By Fletcher Proctor
The Hillgrove Hawks and McEachern will face off with major Region 4-AAAAAA implications hanging in the balance. After the Indians began the year 0-2 with losses to last year’s Class AAAAA state champion Grayson and runner-up Walton, Kyle Hockman’s squad has rallied to win seven straight region games. Hillgrove, meanwhile, was expected by many to perhaps make it two straight region titles with plenty of firepower returning on defense and two strong quarterbacks running the offense. The Hawks dropped an early contest to Lassiter then fell to Marietta and North Cobb in region play, but Phil Ironside’s team rebounded with a big win over South Cobb last week. With just McEachern remaining, the Hawks need to finish strong to assure themselves of a spot in the Class AAAAAA bracket.
Since managing just 12 points against Grayson’s tough defense, the Indians have averaged 39 points per game and have gone for at least 42 in each of the last three contests. Ty Griffin and Ty Clemons have excelled carrying the ball from the quarterback spot while Taj Griffin. Both Griffin and Clemons can also throw the ball and tight end Chris Okeh is a remarkable target in the same mold as former Indian Rory Anderson. Clemons will split out wide when Griffin is under center.
Hillgrove has played a pair of quarterbacks this season as Elijah Ironside and Troy Thompson have played well, finding Omar Black, Evan Engram and Richardre Bagley enough to replace the loss of running back Kenyan Drake, who went on to sign with Alabama. Bagley and Bakari Oxendine have done a nice job of running the ball from the tailback position while Thompson has been a force running from the quarterback position. Thompson rushed for 86 yards and a pair of scores in Hillgrove’s win over Kennesaw Mountain before Ironside threw for three scores in Hillgrove’s victory over Harrison.
Tolando Cleveland has also been a force for the Hawks in the special teams game as well as on defense. Travon Simmons, Justin Haney, Eric Jackson and LeMarkus Bailey are several other playmakers that have delivered impact performances from Hillgrove’s back seven.