Hillgrove wore down Marietta with a clock-controlling running attack and broke open a close game with three fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat the Blue Devils 30-7 in a Region 3-AAAAAAA game Friday in Powder Springs.
Hillgrove ran for 184 yards on 42 carries and had possession for 27:06 to Marietta’s 20:54. Mason Marshall ran for 91 yards on 18 carries, and Jaylen McCollough had 62 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. The Hawks finished with a 313-239 advantage in total offense.
Hillgrove (4-3, 2-0) remained tied with McEachern for first place in Region 3-AAAAAAA. The Hawks will face McEachern on Nov. 4 in the regular-season finale. Marietta (3-4, 1-1) fell into a third-place tie with North Cobb.
“It was ground and pound,” Hillgrove quarterback Hunter Arters said. “That’s what we focused on. [Coach Phil Ironside] emphasized all week that if we could run the ball, it’ll open up the passing game. He wanted to run the rock and kill the clock, and that’s what we did.”
Marietta closed to within 10-7 with a touchdown on its first possession of the second half, scoring on a 1-yard run by Daniel Charles with 9:07 to play in the third quarter, but Hillgrove pulled away from there. The Blue Devils ran just 13 offensive plays in the remainder of the half, and Hillgrove scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.
Hillgrove led 16-7 after McCollough’s 1-yard run with 10:44 to play, and the Blue Devils fumbled away the ensuing kickoff. Hillgrove’s Kelechi Kagha recovered at the Marietta 34, and the Hawks capitalized, scoring on another 1-yard run by McCollough with 6:52 left, essentially putting the game away. The Hawks added one more score on their next possession, which started at the Marietta 13 after the Blue Devils turned it over on downs. Arters threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chigoziem Okonkwo on the second play of the short drive. Arters finished 11-for-19 passing for 129 yards.
Hillgrove made it a rough homecoming of sorts for Marietta freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey, who came up through the Hillgrove middle school program and participated in spring practice with the Hawks before opting over the summer to attend Marietta. Bailey finished the game 20-for-36 passing for 212 yards (almost 100 yards below his average) but was sacked eight times for 40 yards in losses and threw an interception to McCollough. Jalani Hayward recorded four of the Hillgrove sacks.
Marietta’s Ramel Keyton had eight receptions for 141 yards.
“They’re long at receiver, and Harrison can sling it,” Ironside said of the Blue Devils. “You’re always afraid of it being a close game and them getting one on you. I thought we missed some opportunities in the first half to maybe separate a little bit, but our O-line was tremendous, our stable of running backs rode through tonight and I thought our quarterback made great decisions.”
Both teams moved the ball easily between the 30-yard lines in the first half but ran into trouble from there. Hillgrove finally broke the scoring drought in the final two minutes of the half, getting an 18-yard touchdown run from McCollough and a 23-yard field goal from Jason Pierce.
Marietta – 0-0-7-0 – 7
Hillgrove – 0-10-0-20 – 30
H – Jaylen McCollough 18 run (Jason Pierce kick)
H – Pierce 23 field goal
M – Daniel Charles 1 run (Luke Mozley kick)
H – McCollough 1 run (Pierce kick)
H – McCollough 1 run (kick failed)
H – Chigoziem Okonkwo 10 pass from Hunter Arters (Pierce kick)