Nevertheless, the Hawks got all the scoring that they needed to beat west Cobb rival Harrison 21-14 in Region 4AAAAA action on Friday at Cobb Energy/Hillgrove Stadium.
Hillgrove (5-0, 2-0) did lead from start to finish, going up 13-0 in the second quarter and adding another touchdown in the third quarter.
But, the Hawks weren't able to pull away from a tenacious Harrison (1-4, 0-2) squad like they had been able to do with their other opponents this season.
"I'm not surprised at all," Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. "I felt like they outplayed and outcoached us. They played hard. They played intense. They wanted to win and that's what a football team should do. It is what it is, but I'm proud of my kids for their effort."
Kenyan Drake rushed for 120 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown, while also catching a scoring pass to lead Hillgrove.
Harrison quarterback Clay Chastain completed 15 of 31 passes for 176 yards and threw two touchdown passes to provide the Hoyas with all of their points.
Harrison put itself in prime position on the first series of the game when Chastain threw a 50-yard pass to Subbu Adetujoye that put the Hoyas on the Hillgrove 30-yard line with 11:20 remaining in the first quarter.
However, a couple of penalties essentially erased Harrison's gains, pushing the Hoyas back into their own territory and they were eventually forced to punt.
Hillgrove broke the scoreless tie in the second quarter as it went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive, with Drake getting most of the carries, that culminated in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Elijah Ironside to Kelvin Cameron with 4:48 remaining in the first half. With Andrew Gaughn's extra-point kick, the Hawks took a 7-0 lead.
The Hillgrove defense came up big later in the second quarter when John Silas knocked the ball out of Chastain's hand on a pass attempt and Jordan Helton recovered the ball for the Hawks on the Harrison 6-yard line with 1:30 left in the first half.
Hillgrove took quick advantage of its opportunity as Ironside threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Drake on the second play of the series and, after a missed extra-point kick, the Hawks lead was up to 13-0 with 1:18 left.
A big gamble paid off for Harrison on the opening kickoff of the second half as the Hoyas successfully recovered their own onside kick attempt and took over the ball at the Hillgrove 49.
Harrison proceeded to go on a 10-play drive that finished with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Chastain to Zach Moore with 10:19 remaining in the third quarter, with Darren Parkinson adding the extra-point kick, to help the Hoyas cut Hillgrove's lead to 13-7.
Hillgrove took advantage of a botched punt by Harrison to take possession of the ball at the Hoya 26-yard line with 2:56 left in the third quarter and it took seven plays for the Hawks to score, with Drake's 2-yard touchdown run and a successful 2-point conversion pass from Ironside to Drake increasing the margin to 21-7.
Harrison proceeded to close the gap again midway through the fourth quarter as it took control of the ball after a Hillgrove punt at the Hawk 37-yard line with 6:30 left in the game and then scored three plays later on Kyle Holmes 33-yard run to the end zone after catching a slant pass from Chastain. The extra-point kick by Parkinson cut Hillgrove's advantage to 21-14.