Game: Hillgrove at Douglas County, 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Hillgrove 17, Douglas County 0
All-time series: Hillgrove leads 2-0
Prediction: Hillgrove 24, Douglas County 10
Hillgrove opens its 2019 season at Douglas County tonight. It’s the return match for both programs after the Hawks downed the Tigers 17-0 at home to begin last year’s 2018 campaign.
The victory sparked Hillgrove to its second 10-0 regular season in school history – its first since 2011 – and led the Hawks to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs and a 12-1 finish on the year.
After claiming back-to-back Region 3AAAAAAA championships behind a seasoned and veteran group, Hillgrove isn’t expected to have a down year in 2019 with the Hawks bringing back six offensive and six defensive starters on either side of the ball.
Some key returners on offense include Matthew McCravy, Issiah McCray, Tre Walker, Braylen Howard and Jalen Royals, while the defensive list includes Reuben Lowery, Jabreel Salam, James Dioh, Jake Bond and Darrell Ellis.
“We lost our entire offensive line, but we bring back all of our skill position guys,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “Our defensive line is back, but we lost three lost three good linebackers and some good safeties. The guys we have coming back saw a lot of action last year, so I think we’ll be ready.”
Ironside has a reason to be confident about his team following a preseason scrimmage against Grayson.
“The scrimmage went OK,” he said. “Grayson was in control for the most part, but we played a lot better in the second half. There were a lot of bright spots. These are good kids, and we’ll keep coaching them and help them get better.
“We had some question marks last year, but got better. We lost some really good players, but this is a proven group. And after two really good years, people ask me if we’re rebuilding. I tell them we just want to be who we want to be.
“People say we weren’t supposed to be good last year, and that turned out OK. This is a totally new team and we’re going to go week-to-week and see where we get to.”
Week 1 starts tonight at Douglas County.
“We’re excited. Guys get tired scrimmaging against each other,” Ironside said. “It’s great to finally start the season. We’ve had great leadership the last two years, and I like what I’ve seen so far with this group. We’re ready to get started.”