Friday night recap: McEachern, Blessed Trinity win showdowns in finals seconds

McEachern defensive back Victor Okafor (24) makes a tackle on Hillgrove wide receiver Braylen Howard (5) as he runs the ball in the first half of Friday's game at McEachern.

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McEachern defensive back Victor Okafor (24) makes a tackle on Hillgrove wide receiver Braylen Howard (5) as he runs the ball in the first half of Friday's game at McEachern.

Two of the state’s biggest high school football games had two of the wildest finishes in a night of nail-biters Friday as McEachern and Blessed Trinity escaped with dramatic region victories.

McEachern, the No. 2 team in the highest classification, defeated cross-town Powder Springs rival Hillgrove 19-14 in a Region 3-AAAAAAA game with the season’s most controversial finish to date.

Hillgrove, ranked No. 6, had the ball at the McEachern 2-yard line in the final seconds when quarterback Matthew McCravy took off around right end on a keeper and dived toward a pylon, making contact with it with the football. That would be a touchdown, but officials ruled him short of the goal line, and time ran off.

McEachern improved to 6-0 overall and 1-0 in Region 3-AAAAAAA. Hillgrove, the defending region champion, fell to 5-1, 0-1.

Blessed Trinity, the two-time defending Class AAAA champion, defeated Denmark 20-19 after Duncan Reavis threw a 10-yard TD pass to James Bryant with 35 seconds left. Denmark, a 2-year-old school in Forsyth County, entered 5-0 and ranked 10th. Blessed Trinity, ranked fifth, improved to 5-1, 2-0 in Region 7-AAAA.

In another tight one, No. 3 Jones County beat No. 4 Dutchtown 27-22 in Region 4-AAAAA. Jones County trailed 14-0 early and 22-21 midway in the fourth quarter until Hunter Costlow tossed a touchdown pass to Jontavis Robertson for the final margin. Jones County, seeking its first region title since 2001, is now the only unbeaten team in its region.

Several other big games went down to the final horn.

No. 3 Harrison (7-0, 5-0) claimed a 21-17 victory over No. 5 Allatoona (4-2, 4-1). With that, Harrison avenged a 2018 defeat and emerged as the only unbeaten team in region play out of strong 6-AAAAAA.

Unranked Veterans beat defending AAAAA champion and ninth-ranked Bainbridge 16-13. Both teams entered the Region 1 opener with 5-1 overall records. In a similar upset, unranked Carver-Columbus knocked off No. 6 Cairo 52-46 in two overtimes to take first place in Region 1-AAAA. Caver and Cairo entered region play 5-1.

No. 10 Jefferson beat No. 5 Hart County 28-23 in a Region 8-AAA game. That was Hart’s first loss, and Jefferson (5-1, 3-0) is now the region front-runner.

Other showdowns were not so close.

In AAAAAAA, No. 7 North Gwinnett beat No. 8 Mill Creek 45-3 in Region 6 while No. 4 Marietta defeated previously unbeaten North Paulding 49-21 in Region 3. In AAAAAA, No. 2 Valdosta beat No. 9 Houston County 52-20 in Region 1.

The night’s most surprising upset came in AAAAA when Union Grove (4-2, 2-2) defeated No. 6 Stockbridge 25-20. It was  Union Grove’s first-ever victory over a top-10 opponent from the same classification. Union Grove had lost five straight games to No. 6 Stockbridge, none closer than 34 points, and 25 straight to ranked opponents in its own class.