ATLANTA — What allowed Harrison to capture the first state championship in program history was its ability to capitalize on the defense and special teams opportunities it created.
Those same opportunities never materialized for Allatoona.
The Buccaneers’ Mike Austin recovered a fumble, and Cobb County interception leader Brett Blomquist increased his season total to eight in the second quarter, but Allatoona came away with zero points.
Meanwhile, Harrison scored 17 points off Allatoona miscues, forcing two turnovers and blocking two field goal attempts, en route to the Hoyas’ 20-7 victory Friday in the Class AAAAAA state championship at Georgia State Stadium.
“Defense wins championships, and our special teams guys played a huge role (Friday),” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “I was worried about (Allatoona kicker) Jude Kelley all week, and for our guys to come up so big in such big moments was a testament to how hard they’ve worked all season. Our defense and our special teams really set the tone for us all night long.”
Micaiah Bell blocked and recovered Kelley’s 42-yard field goal try roughly 3 minutes into the second quarter to give Harrison the ball. One play later, Gavin Hall completed a 49-yard touchdown pass to James Ziglor, and Chris Lowery converted the point-after try for a 10-0 Hoyas lead.
After a turnover early in the third quarter, Harrison’s defense held Allatoona to a 34-yard field goal attempt, but another block led to Christian Lowery’s 40-yard field goal to increase Harrison’s lead to 13-7.
“The two blocked field goals were huge because that’s the best field goal kicker in the state,” Harrison defensive coordinator Mitch Henghold said of Kelley. “He’s one of the best, if not the best. He’s nationally ranked, and I have to give it up to our D-line coach, Thomas Hanson. We blocked a couple (of field goals) earlier in the year, too, when we played them. (Hanson) saw something, and we worked on it, and it worked again, twice. We’re really excited about that. It was huge for our whole team.”
Roughly a minute after Lowery’s field goal, Brandon Carter intercepted a pass and returned it 31 yards to the Buccaneers’ 2, setting up Harrison’s second touchdown and a 20-7 late lead in the third quarter.
“Turnovers are the No. 1 indicator of who’s going to win or lose. That and explosive plays,” Henghold said, “so we wanted to limit the explosives. That’s a great football team over there. (Allatoona coach Gary Varner) and his staff are top-notch, so we wanted to limit the explosives and get turnovers, and usually, when you do that, great things will happen.
“This is the best defense I’ve ever been associated with. Coach Dickmann runs a great program and allows us to do certain things. We’re not as good as we are without the whole team. It’s everybody together, but those young men have been together for a lot years and they know how to play together. When they know how to play together, usually great things will happen for us, and they did.”