All season, opponents haven’t given the Harrison Hoyas much of a challenge. Friday in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals it was no different as the visiting Houston County Bears failed to keep pace, and the Hoyas marched to a 28-7 win at Bruce Cobleigh Stadium.
The No. 2 Hoyas are 13-0 and set the 27-year program record for victories with Friday’s win. A No. 1 seed from Region 6, they will travel to play top-ranked Dacula in their first semifinals appearance since 2000. Dacula, a No. 1 seed from Region 8 that’s also 13-0, beat Lee County to advance.
The Hoyas used the running game to wear down the Bears, which led to two long passing touchdowns in the second quarter from Gavin Hall to Marques Owens on back-to-back possessions — the first going for 46 yards, the second for 55.
The first score came on the third play of a drive and was set up by Owens’ 20-yard reception the play before. After a Bears three-and-out, Hall again found Owens on the the ensuing drive’s second play, which brought the score to 14-0 with 7:02 left in the half.
“It was an open field and I just really wanted the chance,” said Owens, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound junior with breakaway speed. “I knew I was going to be able to do something with it.”
The Bears would respond to the Hoyas’ second score, using nearly five minutes and 13 plays to drive 80 yards, with Simeon Askew punching it in from the Harrison 2 out of the wildcat formation. That made it 14-7 with 2:34 remaining, a score that would hold through halftime.
The Hoyas avoided a disastrous end to the half on their next possession when, after going three-and-out, the Bears blocked the punt and recovered on the Harrison 27-yard line. The Bears marched all the way to the 1 and on first-and-goal with no timeouts and 11 seconds left, they again turned to Askew in the wildcat. He tried to leap over the line but was stuffed, and the clock ran out.
“We work on our goal line defense every day in practice,” said two-way starter James Ziglor, who from the defensive back position had a sack, a touchdown-saving tackle and a goal line interception in the second half. “We have different coverages that we do and it’s just natural to us.”
The Hoyas received possession to start the second half and only needed three minutes to go 70 yards, scoring on David Roberts’ 23-yard run on third-and-1.
The Bears’ next two possessions ended in interceptions, with the first by Harrison’s Tommy Pollack, which came at the Hoyas 5-yard line. The second came after the Bears reached the Harrison 7 — thanks to a 57-yard pass from Max Rigby to Kyah Plummer — when Ziglor picked off Rigby at the 1 and returned it to the 29 with 10:34 left in the game.
The Hoyas then put the game away with 10-play, 71-yard drive that chewed five minutes of clock, all on running plays against an exhausted Houston County line, culminating with a 6-yard touchdown run from Roberts to bring the score to its final margin.
The Bears, from Region 1, end their season at 7-6 as the lone remaining No. 4 seed in the AAAAAA tournament.
The Hoyas were led by Roberts’ 106 yards on 13 carries and Owens’ 111 yards on five catches.
With the win, the Hoyas have now defeated all of their opponents by double-digits except for Allatoona, which they beat 21-17 after trailing by 10 at halftime. Allatoona is also in the semis after beating Coffee on Friday. The Hoyas’ first two playoff wins were by scores of 45-25 and 51-19 over Winder-Barrow and Brunswick, respectively. Now comes perhaps their biggest challenge of the season in Dacula.
Owens said the Hoyas are playing their best football of the season and that Dacula won’t stand in their way.
“The offense is finally working and the defense has always been the best part of us,” Owens said. “We’re going to state — I’m that confident.”
Houston County 0 7 0 0 — 7
Harrison 0 14 7 7 — 28
HA — Marques Owens 46 pass from Gavin Hall (Christian Lowery kick)
HA — Owens 55 pass from Hall (Lowery kick)
HC — Simeon Askew 2 run (Judson Demaria kick)
HA — David Roberts 23 run (Lowery kick)
HA — Roberts 6 run (Lowery kick)
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.