Hillgrove used quick drives on offense and a defense that clamped down when it needed to for a 27-14 victory over ninth-ranked South Forsyth in the late game of a Corky Kell Classic doubleheader at McEachern on Friday.
Junior Hunter Arters threw two touchdowns passes in the first half and senior Bryson Parks led the Hawks to 13 second-half points as Hillgrove won its opener for the ninth time in the program’s 10 full varsity seasons.
Arters was 4-for-7 passing for 120 yards and had touchdowns passes of 16 yards to Tavion Walker and 95 yards to Tavion Walker in the first half. He didn’t play in the second after displaying concussion-like symptoms.
So Parks took over for the final two quarters. His first drive resulted in a loss of 14 yards, but he settled in from there. After South Forsyth cut the lead to 14-7 on a 7-yard run by Jared Honey, the Hawks responded with a 10-play, 57-yard drive that ended with Jason Pierce’s 30-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead.
Hillgrove scored again on its next possession, increasing the lead to 24-7 on a 1-yard run by Jaylen McCollough to cap a four-play, 70-yard drive. Trevor Smith set up the touchdown with a 64-yard run to the South Forsyth 2.
Pierce added a 34-yard field goal with 5:28 to play.
Smith finished with a game-high 122 yards rushing on nine carries, and Mason Marshall added 49 yards on 10 carries for the Hawks, who ran for 219 yards and had 339 yards of total offense.
South Forsyth moved the ball with relative ease for much of the night, finishing with 351 yards, but could not take advantage until Hillgrove had taken control. The War Eagles were inside Hillgrove’s 25 three times in the first half but came away with no points. Those drives ended with a turnover on downs at the 16, a fumble at the 21, and the end of the half at the 21. South Forsyth had the ball for 16:24 of the first half and ran 45 plays to Hillgrove’s 18, but it trailed 14-0 at the break.
South Forsyth quarterback Davis Shanley, his region’s offensive player of the year in 2015, was 15-for-32 passing for 154 yards and a touchdown and was the War Eagles’ leading rusher with 68 yards on 12 carries.
Hillgrove needed just five plays to take the lead. The Hawks took possession for their opening drive at the South Forsyth 47-yard line after a punt, and three running plays had them down to the 12. Two plays later, Arters threw the 16-yard touchdown pass to Jackson.
The Hawks made it 14-0 early in the second with the biggest play of the night, a short pass from Arters to Walker that went 95 yards for a touchdown.
South Forsyth – 0-0-7-7 – 14
Hillgrove – 7-7-3-10 – 27
H – Jalen Jackson 16 pass from Hunter Arters (Jason Pierce kick)
H – Tavion Walker 95 pass from Arters (Pierce kick)
S – Jared Honey 7 run (Alex Hardy kick)
H – Pierce 30 field goal
H – Jaylen McCollough 1 run (Pierce kick)
H – Pierce 34 field goal
S – Jaylen Pearson 9 pass from Davis Shanley (Hardy kick)