For Marietta, the game marks its debut in a region where the Blue Devils will be reunited with their old rivals from west and south Cobb.
The Blue Devils played in a reconstituted 5AAAAA with east Cobb teams Walton, Lassiter and Wheeler the past two seasons.
“This is a new region for us,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “We’re still an unknown quantity in this region. It’s extremely important to play well in our first region game and this is a local rivarlry. Since both schools are located so close to each other, it is an important game.”
While Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside wants to get the Hawks off to a winning start at the beginning of their region slate, he doesn’t consider it a must win situation.
“Obviously, it’s an important game, but it’s not the end of the world,” Ironside said. “A win would give us a big leg up. But, it’s Week 3 of the season and we don’t want to build this game up too much, because we would be setting the kids up for failure. It’s not do or die.”
It will be the third meeting between the new region rivals, with Hillgrove winning the first two non-region contests — including a 48-8 win over the Blue Devils last year.
Marietta (1-1) will try to build on the momentum that it developed from its 27-7 victory over Pope last Friday, while Hillgrove
(1-1) returns to action after a bye week. The Hawks lost to Lassiter 37-29 in their previous game.
The game features two of the top passers in the county, with Marietta quarterback and LSU commitment Anthony Jennings squaring off against Hillgrove signal-caller Troy Thompson.
Also on display will be two of Cobb’s top two receivers — Hillgrove’s Evan Engram — who has committed to Mississippi — and Marietta’s Tyree Harris — who will be heading to Wake Forest.
Jennings will have his hands full with a formidable Hillgrove secondary led by Division I commitments Engram and Tolando Cleveland (Georgia Tech).
For Ironside, containing Marietta’s combination of Jennings and Harris is the primary concern for Hillgrove’a defense.
“They have an LSU kid (Jennings) at quarterback and a Wake Forest kid (Harris) at receiver,” Ironside said. “They can obviously throw the ball, but they can run the ball, too. We’re going to have to play good defense.”
Burton said his Blue Devils will have to find a way to deal with Hillgrove’s combination of athleticism and physical play.
“Hillgrove is athletic and they’re really fast, but they’re also very physical,” Burton said. “They’re a well-coached team.”