Powder Springs rivals McEachern and Hillgrove were locked in a three-point game midway through the third quarter Friday, but McEachern’s powerful running game wore down the Hawks in a 47-23 victory that clinched the championship in Region 3-AAAAAAA.
McEachern (9-1, 5-0) won its second consecutive region title and 17th overall. The Indians will host a first-round playoff game against the at-large playoff team, which will be determined in the next few days. Hillgrove (5-5, 3-2) finished as the region’s third-place team and will travel to Region 1 runner-up Lowndes next week.
“I’m proud of the kids,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “They really work hard and believe in what we’re doing. There’s not much complacency. They just keep working. They’ve got big goals and big dreams, and now the third season starts.”
Paris Brown had 147 of the Indians’ 215 rushing yards and scored touchdowns on runs of 6 and 7 yards that turned a three-point lead into a 33-17 advantage early in the fourth quarter. Quay Holmes rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a 17-yard pass from Bailey Hockman near the end of the first half that gave McEachern the lead for good.
Hockman was intercepted three times in the first half, including twice by Kameron Budram, but the Hawks were unable to take advantage, scoring three points off the turnovers despite having the ball in McEachern territory each time. Still, Hillgrove trailed just 13-10 at halftime.
The Hawks were within 20-17 midway through the third quarter when quarterback Hunter Arters scored on a 19-yard run, but McEachern scored the next 20 points to break the game open.
“We just told our quarterback to keep his head up,” Brown said. “Our defense had our back, and we performed after that.”
Hockman was 12-of-26 passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns for the Indians, who finished with a 456-324 advantage in total offense.
Hillgrove’s Arters completed 21 of 41 passes for 198 yards, and Bryson Parks was 6-for-10 for 73 yards and scored on a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter. But the Hawks, who came in averaging 180.4 yards rushing, were held to 53 yards on 20 carries.
Hillgrove had just one possession of more than four plays in the first half, but the Hawks used that 10-play, 97-yard drive to pull even at 7-7 on a 2-yard run by Jaylen McCollough with 7:48 to play in the second quarter. The Hawks took their only lead of the night two minutes later on a 34-yard field goal by Jason Pierce that was set up by Budram’ s second interception, which game Hillgrove the ball at the McEachern 15.
The Indians reclaimed the lead on Holmes’ touchdown catch that made it 13-10 with 1:39 to play in the half.
Hillgrove – 0-10-7-6 – 23
McEachern – 7-6-13-21 – 47
M – Quay Holmes 6 run (Giovanni Dominguez kick)
H – Jaylen McCollough 2 run (Jason Pierce kick)
H – Pierce 34 field goal
M – Holmes 17 pass from Bailey Hickman (kick failed)
M – Brandon Smith 12 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick)
H – Hunter Arters 19 run (Pierce kick)
M – Paris Brown 6 run (kick failed)
M – Brown 7 run (Dominguez kick)
M – Holmes 5 run (Dominguez kick)
H – Bryson Parks 17 run (pass failed)
M – Nasier Currie-Sudler 32 interception return (Dominguez kick)