Hillgrove (5-3, 4-2) and South Cobb (6-2, 4-2) are tied for third place in 4AAAAAA with North Cobb, so a win would give either the Hawks or the Eagles a leg up in the race for state playoff positioning.
“It’s that time of year where you’ve got to win,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “This is definitely a big game for us.”
South Cobb coach Ed Koester also emphasized the significance of the game.
“It’s a big game, no doubt about it,” Koester said. “The last five weeks, all of our games have been big. But we’re really getting down to the nitty gritty, now.”
For Koester, being part of an important late-season game like this one is special for them as well as his players.
“The importance of it is definitely special for us, as well as the fans,” Koester said. “This is a culminating part of what we’ve been working towards for the last 365 days.”
It will be senior night for Hillgrove, so that adds to the significance of the game for Ironside and his squad.
“That’s a big deal,” Ironside said. “We have a chance to play in the state playoffs and that’s a big deal, too.”
Hillgrove enters the game with plenty of momentum after winning four of its last five games, including a convincing
41-14 win over Harrison last Friday.
“We’re in good shape,” Ironside said. “We know that some of the teams in our region have gotten better and we lost some kids from last year, but we’re doing pretty well.”
South Cobb will try to get back on track after losing two of its last three games, including last week’s 43-14 loss to Marietta, following a 6-0 start.
“If we were where we wanted to be, we would have beaten McEachern and Marietta,” quipped Koester. “But the kids are playing hard and we’re in pretty good shape.”
Containing South Cobb’s big-play capability on offense, led by quarterback Stephon Masha and wide receivers Jeremiah Alphabet and Chauncey Ingram, are among the challenges that Ironside and his Hillgrove squad faces.
“They’re a big-play team,” Ironside said. “Their quarterback (Masha) is a threat any time he has the ball. He can beat you with his feet or his arm. They’re a very quick, athletic team.”
However, Hillgrove has a formidable secondary, led by Division I commitments Tolando Cleveland (Georgia Tech) and Evan Engram (Mississippi), to counter Masha from the air.
In addition, the Hawks have some formidable offensive weapons of their own to challenge the South Cobb defense, including quarterback Troy Thompson and Engram at wide receiver.
“I think it’s another good football team that we’re playing,” Koester said. “Coach Ironside has done an excellent job of building that program and he has done an excellent job this year. They have a quarterback (Thompson) who can make big plays and they’re extremely quick and physical.
“They’re well-prepared and it’s going to be a tough game.”