It was the test McEachern needed going into the Class AAAAAA state playoffs next week. The Indians may have their hands full with Colquitt County.
With Marietta and North Cobb winning their games handily, Hillgrove finished as 4AAAAAA’s No. 4 seed and will travel to Camden County for the first round.
“This kind of game, I think, gets us ready,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “We haven’t played a good, tough game going into the playoffs. We played 0-9 teams and 1-8 teams when we played a half or less. I think this game kind of primes us. Getting one here late and coming out victorious gets us at the right spot.”
The Indians totaled 295 yards on the ground. Quarterback Ty Griffin accounted for 222 of those yards and had four rushing touchdowns. As successful McEachern was running the ball, Hillgrove gave the Indians fits at the line of scrimmage in the third quarter and the early stages of the fourth.
Many of McEachern’s rush attempts were going for negative yards, which led to Hillgrove getting better field position and eventually a fourth quarter lead. A Hillgrove safety off a botched snap by McEachern that went through the end zone led to a two-yard touchdown run by Richardre Bagley to give the Hawks a 23-19 lead.
Knowing they had to reclaim the lead sooner rather than later with 11 minutes to play with, the Indians went three-and-out on their next drive with minus-4 rushing yards to show for.
But on Hillgrove’s first play of its next drive, McEachern forced a turnover when defensive lineman McKenzie Billingslea recovered an Errol Breaux fumble at the McEachern 39-yard line.
After Ty Clemons was stopped for a four-yard loss on first down, McEachern decided to change things up on the next play when Ty Griffin threw a 26-yard pass to Taj Griffin. Two plays later, Ty Griffin gave McEachern the lead for good when he kept the ball and ran ball 39 yards for the touchdown.
“They made some good adjustments at halftime,” Hockman said. “It took us a while to make some adjustments back. I give credit to God and our coaches who are doing a great job.”
McEachern then forced Hillgrove to punt, and the Indians added insurance on a 1-yard plunge by Griffin.
Hillgrove then executed the 2-minute drill perfectly by scoring on a 5-yard screen pass from Thompson to Bagley, but Glenn Frazier successfully recovered the onside kick to preserve the win.
“I’m proud of our kids. I thought we played hard (Friday),” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “Everyone thought we would get blown out and we had a chance to win the ballgame.”
Thompson did most of its damage in the air with Thompson throwing for 245 yards and two scores.
Breaux and Evan Engram broke the 100-mark in receiving with 131 and 103 yards respectively. They even connected for a score when Engram hit Breaux on a 75-yard flea-flicker.