POWDER SPRINGS — Hillgrove quarterback Chase McCravy scored on an 80-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter to lift Hillgrove past North Paulding 38-31 Friday.
The win kept Hillgrove’s postseason hopes alive and set up a likely showdown against Harrison next week for the No. 4 seed.
“Our staff did a good job preparing all week, and we kept (the play) in our pocket,” Hillgrove coach Justin DeShon said. “The situation presented itself, which we’ll go back and talk about why it presented itself, but we’re a young program learning how to win again and McCravy’s a special player and made a huge play in the clutch.”
McCravy finished the game with 149 yards rushing. Starting running back Sean Cooper was another second half difference maker for Hillgrove. He finished the game with 138 yards on 25 carries.
Hillgrove (2-7, 1-3 Region 3AAAAAAA) had a 17-7 lead at halftime. The game turned into a track meet in the second half.
It started with a 42-yard field goal by Owen Dupree to pull North Paulding (4-5, 1-3) within 17-10. For the moment, Hillgrove answered with a kickoff return touchdown, but it was called back on an illegal block in the back penalty. The penalty served as a mute point as the Hawks marched down the field and scored a touchdown anyway.
Trailing by 14 entering the fourth quarter, North Paulding went 89 yards in 15 plays, taking 5:12, and pulled back within a score with another Poe rushing touchdown.
The Hawks’ offense responded again with a 35-yard touchdown run by Cooper on fourth-and-1. Hillgrove took a 31-17 lead with 2:45 left in the game on that play.
Wolfpack quarterback Boone Anderson took his team on an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 29-yard receiving touchdown by Dupree, in just over a minute.
North Paulding recovered the ensuing onside kick on the Hawks’ 48-yard line.
On the final two drives for North Paulding, Anderson connected with Tyler Holland, who had five catches for 80 yards, including the 35-yard catch and run off a broken tackle to tie the game at 31.
Anderson threw 10 passes for 142 yards in the second half in the relentless effort to tie the game with just 39 seconds left.
The Hawks still had 39 seconds to try to get a game-winning score. One play and 80 yards later, McCravy answered the call, and Hillgrove took a 38-31 lead.
“We established (the play) from the first quarter, and we knew it was going to work there,” McCravy said. “Their linebackers were covering everybody, and I put trust in my offensive line, and they got it done, so that’s all I can ask for.”
North Paulding still had 23 seconds to work with, but Emory Floyd iced the game on an interception.
North Paulding fell to 1-3 in region play, and with losses to Harrison and Hillgrove, it can’t make the playoffs this year. It will end its season at home against North Cobb next week, while Hillgrove will host Harrison.
“Harrison’s a really good football team, but we’re 1-0, and we’re going to prepare Monday, like we’re a 1-0 football team,” DeShon said. “We have a chance to do what we want to do.”