In a very lopsided contest at Cobleigh Stadium, the Harrison Hoyas made a declaration last night against the Hillgrove Hawks. The schools are just a few miles apart and have become regional opponents due to the 2019 reclassification, which moved the Hoyas to 3-7A.
Hillgrove looked to be improving mid-season with a strong win over current state champ Marietta in late October. But two straight losses to North Cobb and North Paulding in November put them in a must-win situation against the Hoyas.
The stakes were high for both teams: Hillgrove needing a win to keep postseason hopes alive, and Harrison needing a win to enter the playoffs as a #3 seed, instead of a #4. The stadium was filled (by COVID standards, at least) on both sides and the atmosphere was charged.
The first quarter started slow, with both teams looking for holes in the opposing defense. A punt from each team on their opening possession made it look like it would be a low-scoring game. Harrison lined up to punt again on their second possession near midfield on 4th and 1. A quick snap to Marques Owens on a fake punt caught the Hawks by surprise. Owens took the ball 25 yards to set the Hoyas up well-inside Hawk territory. A Jay Ziglor rushing touchdown a few plays later gave the Hoyas a 7-0 lead late in the opening quarter. It was the first of many.
Although the Hawks kept fighting on offense, they could never get much going for a sustained drive. The Hoyas scored another touchdown in the second quarter thanks to a 50-yard sprint around the left edge and down the sideline by wideout Ed Lynch. Kicker Christian Lowery, who was perfect on the night, added the second extra point to extend the halftime lead to 14-0.
The Hoyas continued the shutout in the second half, running the final score to an impressive 35-0. Hillgrove’s offense could never catch the Harrison defense sleeping. Led by ever-present LB Marcus Bleazard, the Hoya defense was superb all night, denying every Hawk offensive plan.
The game was a statement by the reigning 6A state champs, who started the season with five consecutive losses. Never one to lose sight of the process though, Hoya head coach Matt Dickmann kept his team focused on the game ahead rather than the one behind.
Harrison enters the postseason with fiery momentum and wanting to show that they belong in 7A. And if their improved play from October to November is any indication, December could be a very interesting month for Hoya fans.