Game: Hillgrove (4-4, 1-3) at Harrison (2-5, 2-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Hillgrove 45, Harrison 14 (October 23, 2015)
All-time series: Hillgrove leads 5-1
Prediction: Harrison 21, Hillgrove 17
This is not the situation Hillgrove wanted to be in.
The Hawks had a shot at clinching a berth to the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs last week against a North Paulding team that was previously winless in the region. But a slow start resulted in an early deficit, and the Hawks were on the wrong end of a 21-14 decision.
Now, they will have to win at Harrison on Friday to guarantee a spot.
A loss, and Hillgrove will need some help in order to play beyond the regular season. The Hawks, North Paulding and Marietta are in a three-way tie with one region apiece and is competing for the final playoff spot. All three teams have beaten each other. If it stays that way, the Hawks will get the last spot based on score differential.
After winning its inaugural state championship last season in AAAAAA, Harrison struggled early due to a combination of inexperience and coronavirus issues. Despite having just two wins on the year, the Hoyas are still in good position to lock up the No. 3 seed.
Like Hillgrove, Harrison is looking to rebound from a tough loss to Walton at home. The Raiders took over in the second half to win 28-14 after the game was tied 14-all at the break.
Should Hillgrove, North Paulding and Marietta all emerge victorious, four teams will finish with 2-3 region records. In that case, Hillgrove and Harrison would advance to the postseason.
“We have to go out there and be disciplined in the moment,” Hillgrove coach Byron Slack said. “That’s what we’re going to try to fix. In these close games, it comes down to four or five plays.”
Against North Paulding, Hillgrove bounced back late in the first half and scored two unanswered touchdowns to take the lead.
“I tell the kids that in close games, there will be something you haven’t seen in a couple of weeks,” Slack said. “You have to fall back on your training and the rules on offense and on defense. There hasn’t been a situation that someone gave us that we haven’t been prepared for.”
Hillgrove will go up against Harrison’s Wing-T offense led by running back Jay Ziglor, who rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries last week.
For the Hoyas, they are still looking for consistency. Their primary struggle has been putting four quarters together. While they competed toe-to-toe with Walton in the first half, they gave up too many big plays in the second, which led to two unanswered Walton touchdowns.
“With everything said and done, we are still working on consistency,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “We know this week, we want to take a step forward. To get a win, we have to play more consistent as a team.”