KENNESAW -- Harrison earned a return trip to the state playoffs with a convincing 35-0 victory over Hillgrove on Friday in the regular-season finale for both teams at Cobleigh Stadium.
The win gave Harrison (3-6, 3-2 Region 3AAAAAAA) a No. 3 seed for the state playoffs, with a first-round game at Newnan.
“The goal for me has never been about winning this or doing that,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “We always say it’s to get to the playoffs because, when you get to the playoffs, it’s a second season. And with all the stuff going on with COVID and everything else, you never know what’s going to happen."
The Georgia High School Association previously outlined that any team unable to play in the postseason due to COVID restrictions would be forced to forfeit, as opposed to the game being rescheduled.
"Like I told the kids, ‘You have to continue to live in the bubble and be safe,’" Dickmann said. "My favorite thing about making the playoffs is we get to practice on Thanksgiving. I get to do that quite a bit, and I’m always excited to practice on Thanksgiving Day.”
The loss eliminated Hillgrove (4-5, 1-4) from the state playoffs for the first time since 2009. It was also the first time that the Hawks had been shut out in a program history that began in 2006.
It was a dominant performance on both sides of the ball for Harrison. In addition to holding Hillgrove scoreless, the Hoyas' rushing attack amassed 421 yards.
“Our defense has really played well all year,” Dickmann said. “We had more experience there, and we knew at the beginning of the year that we’re going to have the offense catch up, and it showed by the way we turned the ball over and kept shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s nice to see that we’ve gotten a little consistency. We’ve always stayed physical, because we always pushed the weight room. Definitely, our defense is our strong point, but it’s good to see the offense these last four games come to play some football.”
Jay Ziglor rushed for 103 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns, while Jared Montour had 104 yards on 10 rushes and a score to lead the way for Harrison.
Harrison got on the scoreboard for the first time late in the first quarter when Ziglor scored on a 6-yard run with 37 seconds remaining to give the Hoyas a 7-0 lead.
After Hillgrove was forced to give up the ball on downs on the ensuing series, Harrison came back to score again when Ed Lynch stormed down the field 54 yards for the touchdown to increase the Hoyas’ advantage to 14-0 with 6:51 left in the first half.
Montour was the next to score for Harrison as he entered the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:06 to go in the third quarter, and the Hoyas added another score at the end of the period as Ziglor once again scored on a 6-yard run with 31 seconds left to make it 28-0.
After Charles Remy intercepted a pass by Hillgrove’s Chase McCravy at the Hawks’ 29 with 10:53 remaining in the game, it took Harrison only five plays to score as Ziglor ran 6 yards for the touchdown with 9:06 left to put the finishes on the Hoyas’ win.