After getting shut out after halftime in their season-opening victory against Westlake, the Hawks found the end zone four times following intermission and pulled away from Walton for a 47-35 victory in a “Battle of I-75” game at Walter Cantrell Stadium on Friday.
Led by quarterback Elijah Ironside, who completed 19 of 27 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns, Hillgrove (2-0) collected 554 yards of total offense and totaled 21 first downs. Ironside had touchdown passes of 79, 56, 15, 14 and 64 yards to three different receivers.
Richardre Bagley, who rushed 22 times for 154 yards and a touchdown, also caught six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Justin Denton had eight receptions for 142 yards and two scores, while Omar Black had four catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was proud of Omar Black,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “He comes back from injury. He was out forever with hamstring and ankle problems and made big contributions. We’re so much better with him in the offense. We’re more balanced. Our offensive line played much better, too.”
Hillgrove saw its 21-3 second-quarter lead dwindle down to three points on two occasions in the third quarter. Walton (0-2) turned two fumbles into scoring opportunities to trim the deficit to 21-18 with 8:33 left in the quarter, and 28-25 with 2:38 remaining.
The Hawks, however, pulled away in the fourth period, scoring touchdowns on their final three drives while holding the Raiders to three points for much of the quarter.
Trailing 47-28 with 1:38 left in the game, Bre’yon Thomas sustained Walton’s final possession. He ran the ball six times for 66 yards against Hillgrove’s reserves and crossed the goal line on a 5-yard run for the final score of the contest.
Sonny Harris had seven carries for 27 yards for Hillgrove. He tallied the Hawks’ final touchdown of the game — a 5-yard run to cap a four play, 18-yard drive — to put Hillgrove in front 47-28.
“They didn’t panic (after the fumbles), and that’s big,” Ironside said. “It’s part of the game. It looked like it was kind of slipping away from us, and I still felt like we’ll be fine either way. The guys responded.”
Walton was slow out of the gate offensively. Price Wilson had 22 completions to nine different receivers for 286 yards and three touchdowns on 46 attempts. He had several passes fall short of receivers early, while others hit their targets but the receivers were unable to hold on.
Trailing 14-3, Walton moved the ball on a 10-play drive into the Hawks’ red zone, but didn’t come away with any points after a dropped pass in the end zone and a missed 29-yard field goal.
The Raiders’ Christian Lucas did make a 50-yard field goal with 6:39 on the clock in the first quarter for a 3-0 advantage. Hillgrove scored on three of its next four possessions, including a 70-yard bubble screen pass to Black and a 56-yard toss to Bagley, to stake its 21-3 margin with 2:57 remaining until halftime.
Price answered with a five-play, 58-yard drive, capped by a 23-yard completion to Chad Clay. Two second-half fumble recoveries from D.J. Smith led to two Walton scores, but the Hawks answered each time.
Lucas was also good on a 25-yarder with 5:05 left in the game to move the Raiders to within 35-28.
Walton had one rushing yard in the first half and finished with 107 for the game. Thomas had 72 of those yards.
“Walton wants to run the football. We know that,” Ironside said. “I thought we did a great job game planning against the run and took away from their comfort level. They hurt us in the (naked bootleg) game and some other things, but, overall, I thought our kids played well.”
Clay caught five passes for 72 yards and the score, and K.K. Brooks had three catches for 19 yards and a touchdown. Davis Pidgeon caught a 21-yard touchdown, Jordan McCray had three catches for 48 yards, Maurice Gibson totaled two receptions for 43 yards and Bayley Wolff had five catches for 46 yards.
“I did a poor job preparing my football team to play this week, and we were unable to sustain any forward momentum because of it,” said Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo, after the Raiders fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2006.