The North Cobb Warriors (6-3, 2-2) prepared for battle as they traveled to take on the Hillgrove Hawks (7-2, 2-2) in the final regular season game of the year. Both teams would be looking to rebound from a region defeat a week before, fighting to end their season with a win. The game was made even more important, as it held playoff implications for each team. The winner would earn 3rd place in the region, and the loser would fall to 4th as they each begin their playoff run.
The Warriors received the opening kickoff and immediately went to work. Led by freshman QB, Malachi Singleton, the Warriors methodically moved the ball down the field. Following a few nice runs by RB Cam Cunningham, the Warriors were in Hawk’s territory at the 40-yard line. On a QB keeper up the middle, Malachi Singleton was able to evade defenders and break tackles, sprinting for the end zone. He would not be denied the TD, and would open the game’s scoring, putting the Warriors ahead 7-0 with 8 minutes to go in the first quarter.
On the Hawk’s first offensive possession, they looked to be driving the ball with ease, as QB Matthew McCravy connected with his receiver for 30 yards. But facing a 3rd and goal on the 13 yard line, the Warrior’s CB Nasir Howell read the play perfectly, jumping the route and snatching the ball from the air for an interception, returning it to the Warrior’s 36-yard line.
The Warriors could not capitalize on the change of possession, and the rest of the quarter was a battle for field position. The second quarter possessed more scoring than the first, when with 6:29 remaining in the first half, Malachi Singleton punched in his 2nd rushing TD of the night from only a yard out, extending the Warrior lead to 14. Hillgrove quickly answered with a 2 yard rushing score by Issaiah McCray, leaving the Hawks only down 14-7 with 3:52 left in the half. All momentum seemed to gravitate towards the Hawks following a North Cobb fumble caused by Noah Abrams. The Hawks managed to get a field goal before the break, heading to the locker room down 14-10.
The Hawks opened the 2nd half with a long and sustained drive, converting on 3rd down multiple times. On yet another 3rd down, Matthew McCravy was able to find WR Tre Walker in the end zone for a 21 yard score, giving the Hawks their first lead of the night.
That lead lasted only seconds, as North Cobb returned the ensuing kickoff for a 100-yard score, putting the Warriors back in front 21-17. But the Hawks would answer with a 35-yard TD pass to Tre Walker, his second score of the night, taking the lead back as they went up 24-21. The Hawk’s defense proved strong, forcing the Warriors to punt and looking to extend their lead on the next drive. However, North Cobb’s defense stepped up again, answering with a turnover of their own, and gaining possession with stellar field position. On his third rushing TD of the night, Malachi Singleton was able to put the Warriors back in front, 28-24, heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter began as both teams punted back and forth, playing for field position. However, the Warriors gained possession with 8 minutes to go and took control, executing a phenomenal drive that ate up almost 5 minutes of clock. With only 3:03 remaining in the game, Malachi Singleton proved to be too much for the Hawk’s defense, crossing the end zone for his fourth rushing score of the night. This put the game out of reach for the Hawks, as the Warriors went on to win 35-24, with players running to go celebrate with the North Cobb band after capturing the #3 seed in the region.
Both teams will begin their playoff run next week, as North Cobb will travel to take on the 8-2 Colquitt County Packers, and Hillgrove will look to upset the state’s #1 ranked, undefeated Lowndes Vikings.