Hillgrove’s ground game spurred the offense. Running back Sonny Harris had 18 carries for 190 yards, while his backfield mate, Eric Montgomery, totaled 13 rushes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Matt Wilson also got it done on the ground, with 13 carries for 105 yards and two scores. He also produced through the air, completing eight passes for 99 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m not surprised the guys ran the ball well,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “We’re a running back-driven team, and we’ll continue to get better at that and all phases of the game.”
Neither squad was ready early on defense, but the offenses were in high gear.
Hillgrove quickly showed what it was about when Harris darted around for an apparent 85-yard touchdown run that was called back due to a holding penalty. The drive led to a punt, and Grant Daniels answered with a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of Lassiter’s second possession, putting the Trojans in front.
Bingo Long’s 56-yard kickoff return, coupled with Wilson’s 32-yard pass to Harris, set Montgomery up for a 1-yard score to tie the contest.
Lassiter converted on fourth-and-4 in Hillgrove’s territory during a 13-play, 65-yard scoring drive, regaining the lead on Daniels’ 6-yard run.
Hillgrove knotted the contest again behind two big plays — Montgomery’s 33-yard run and Wilson’s 33-yard rushing touchdown — to make it 14-all with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
Tanner Plemmons recovered a Hillgrove fumble to set up Daniels’ 2-yard touchdown run — his third of the game — which gave the Trojans’ their final lead at 21-14 with 8:10 left in the first half.
Daniels had six carries for 78 yards and three touchdowns to place the Trojans.
Once Hillgrove’s defense caught up to its offense, the Hawks started to pull away.
“It was the first ballgame for both teams, and we both got out of the gates pretty quickly,” Ironside said. “Our coaches did a nice job making adjustments, and our defense came through with some big stops in the second half to slow down Lassiter’s momentum.”
Hillgrove scored touchdowns on each of its next five possessions following its fumble.
The first came with 6:48 remaining in the second quarter. Wilson found Long on a 24-yard pass during a drive that also included a 13-yard pass to Trey Blount and 20- and 10-yard runs from Montgomery.
Lassiter turned the ball over on downs and Hillgrove went right back to work as Wilson capped a nine-play, 70-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to give the Hawks a halftime lead — 27-21 after the missed point-after attempt — that they never relinquished.
“Both teams were really wearing each other out defensively,” Ironside said. “It’s difficult for the defenses, because they have to chase the kids around, but we had a rhythm offensively, and we were able to move the ball.”
Harris ran the ball five straight times for Hillgrove to start the second half, while Montgomery capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run and 34-21 advantage with 9:21 on the clock.
Another Hillgrove defensive stop — this one on the Hawks’ 22-yard line — led to a 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive, capped by Wilson’s 8-yard pass to Ethan Hull.
Jamal Sutton and Cameron Tew combined sacked Lassiter quarterback Russell Aarons during a Trojan drive that resulted in a turnover on downs.
Hillgrove’s final score — a 10-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Jeremiah Bridges — put the Hawks ahead 47-21 with 10:58 left in the game.
Hillgrove’s defense collected its fourth straight turnover on downs, but it couldn’t convert it into a score as Ironside started to play his reserves for the final 7:42.
Lassiter capitalized with two scoring drives — a 57-yard touchdown pass from Aarons to Micah Grigsby, and an 8-yard run from Aarons to pull to within 12 with 24 seconds remaining — but it couldn’t get any closer after two failed onside kicks.
“The offensive line did an amazing job opening up holes,” Harris said. “They were there. I just hit them. We worked hard at practice and felt like, if we can do what we did in practice, we’d have a good game, and we did.”
Aarons, who found 10 different receivers, was 29-of-46 for 327 yards a touchdown. Pearson Vanhorn had five catches for 76 yards.