Anthony Jennings threw for four touchdowns, with three of his scores coming in the first half, to help the Blue Devils (2-1, 1-0) take control of the game early.
It is Marietta’s first win over Hillgrove (1-2, 0-1) in three tries. And it was a far cry from last year, when the Blue Devils lost 48-8.
“Hillgrove is a great program that has proven itself the last couple of years,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “The kids came out and played hard and showed some resilience, and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Jennings was 19-of-31 passing for 240 yards and four touchdowns, including a 56-yard pass to Tyree Harris, who caught seven passes for 134 yards.
“Every ball (Jennings) threw, they caught,” Burton said. “We had injuries in the backfield, so we leaned on him a little more. Our offensive line did a great job of blocking, and our defense made some big plays, so it was a total team effort.”
Troy Thompson completed 13 of 29 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns, including a 74-yard strike to Evan Engram. In all, Engram caught four passes for 142 yards.
The tone of the game was set from the start, when Hillgrove fumbled the opening kickoff and Marietta’s Drew McCollum recovered the ball on the Hawks’ 38-yard line.
The Blue Devils took advantage as Jennings threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Norwood with 9:45 remaining in the first quarter to give the Blue Devils a 6-0 lead.
Hillgrove took the lead midway through the second quarter, when Thompson connected with Omar Black for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Andrew Gaughan made the extra point to complete a 19-play, 66-yard drive that put the Hawks in front 7-6 with 7:06 remaining in the first half.
The Hawks didn’t hold the lead for long, however, as Marietta struck back on its next series with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jennings to Jordan Mathis and an extra point by Ian Shannon to gain a 13-7 advantage with 5:15 left in the first half.
Marietta closed out the first half with a bang as Jennings hit Harris with a 56-yard strike as time ran out, extending the Blue Devils’ lead to 19-7 at halftime.
Jennings threw his fourth and final touchdown pass in the opening series of the second half as he connected with Mathis for a 5-yard scoring pass and then ran the ball in on the 2-point conversion to make it 27-7 with 7:32 left in the third quarter.
Hillgrove ultimately closed the gap with Thompson’s 74-yard connection with Engram with 6:45 left in the game.
For Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside, it was a much improved Marietta team he saw, far from the one the Hawks beat 48-8 last year.
“The coaches have done a good job with them,” Ironside said. “We’ve played them the last two years, and they’re more physical, they’re stronger up front and they’re executing better. (Coach Burton) has done a good job.”