McEachern hosted the last two games between the teams as a result of Hillgrove’s visitor stands not being complete. The last time Hillgrove hosted the rivalry, both offenses took over, with McEachern winning 64-48.
Now that the visitor’s side has been constructed, it’s time the Hawks got one of these games at home. And there is just something about playing your archrival in your own stadium.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Hillgrove receiver Justin Denton, who has who has 39 catches for 546 yards and nine touchdowns. “We love playing at home. Hillgrove has one of the best stadiums in Cobb. I’d Love for our fans to come out. We get great energy from fans being so close to the field. I love the energy that they bring. We’re kind of tired of playing over at McEachern. It’s been a while.”
As McEachern and Hillgrove duke it out tonight, there will be two other games that have a similar feel with back-yard bragging rights in the balance — not to mention big-time playoff implications.
Allatoona will host East Paulding, its neighbor from just down Highway 92. A victory by the Buccaneers would secure the No. 3 seed from Region 5AAAAA. It would also settle a score. East Paulding beat Allatoona 25-7 last year and kept the Bucs from winning the region title.
The other neighborly contest with heavy playoff implications will be played on the opposite side of Dallas Hwy. from Hillgrove, where Marietta will take on Harrison.
The winner of that game will qualify for the playoffs. The loser will go home for the year.
But as big as those games are, it’s hard to find a game bigger than the one between the
8-1 Indians and the 8-1 Hawks.
This will be the fourth meeting between the teams. McEachern holds a 2-1 advantage.
When McEachern coach Kyle Hockman was asked how it was preparing to play in Hillgrove’s environment, he said the Indians are focused more on improving as a team than playing in front of a hostile crowd.
“We’re really focused more on what we do to get better and trying not to make much of the rivalry,” Hockman said. “The rivalry is always the fun part of it, but we just have to get better and worry about the internal things we have to improve on.”
The winner of tonight’s matchup will open the playoffs at home and will likely be the No. 2 seed with the loser claiming the No. 3. That is, unless the Indians and Hawks get a little help from Campbell.
If the Spartans upset North Cobb, the winner of this game would claim the region title.
When this rivalry was last played at Hillgrove three years ago and the teams combined for 112 points, they also combined for 1,125 yards of offense. Much of the damage was done in the third quarter, when the teams combined for 52 points and 446 yards.
This year’s season finale is setting up to be another offensive barrage. McEachern averages 40.8 points a game behind quarterback Ty Clemons, who already has more than 1,000 yards rushing and passing. Hillgrove scores 38.9 a game, because Elijah Ironside often throwing for more than 200 yards a game and getting as many as four Hillgrove receivers involved.
The Indians exceeded 30 points in every game this season with the exception of North Cobb two weeks ago, when they fell 28-26. Meanwhile, Hillgrove has scored more than 45 points in its last three games.
“We have to stay focused and not give up the big play (to McEachern),” Denton said. “We have to make more plays than them, execute, stay sharp and not have any turnovers.”