Harrison 35, Hillgrove 0

Harrison's Jay Ziglorin (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown late in the second half of Friday's game against Hillgrove.
Harrison's Jay Ziglorin (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown late in the second half of Friday's game against Hillgrove.

Credit: Daniel Varnado/Special to the AJC

Credit: Daniel Varnado/Special to the AJC

Harrison’s move back into the highest classification got off to a rough start this season, but the Hoyas appear to be finding their footing at just the right time.

Harrison (3-5, 3-2) won for the third time in four games, beating visiting Hillgrove 35-0 Friday night to clinch the No. 3 playoff seed in Region 3-7A. The Hoyas will play at Region 2 runner-up Newnan in the first round next weekend.

Hillgrove (4-5, 1-4) could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory, but the loss dropped the Hawks into last place and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2009. This will mark just the second time Hillgrove has missed the postseason since it began playing a region schedule in 2008.

“The goal always for me has never been about winning this or doing that,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “We always say it’s to get to the playoffs, because when you get to the playoffs it’s a second season. And heck, with all the stuff going on with COVID and everything else, you never know what’s going to happen. … My favorite thing about making the playoffs is you get to practice on Thanksgiving. I’ve gotten to do that quite a bit, and I’m always excited when you get to practice on Thanksgiving day.”

Harrison was the Class 6A champion in 2019 but moved into 7A during the GHSA’s offseason reclassification. The Hoyas lost their first three games in non-region play and then went a month without playing because of COVID-19 concerns. When they returned to the field in mid-October, they lost to North Cobb in the region opener. They’re 3-1 since, the only loss being a 28-14 setback against Walton last week that ultimately decided second place in the region.

The Hoyas most recently played in the highest class in 2015.

Harrison dominated Hillgrove with a running game that accounted for 407 yards and five touchdowns on 56 carries and led to an advantage in time of possession of more than 10 minutes. Jared Montour rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and Jay Ziglor had 98 yards on 16 carries and scored three times on 6-yard runs. In all, 12 players had at least one carry for the Hoyas, and five of them finished with at least 42 yards rushing.

The Hoyas took control on their second possession, driving 84 yards in 10 plays for a 7-0 lead on Ziglor’s first touchdown run. The key play was a 22-yard run by Marques Owens on a fake punt that gave the Hoyas a first down at the Hillgrove 31.

Harrison increased the lead to 14-0 on a 46-yard touchdown run by Ed Lynch midway through the second quarter, then put the game away with touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half.

Hillgrove, playing its 164th game since opening in 2006, was shut out for the first time in school history. The Hawks’ best scoring opportunity came midway through the third quarter after Montour’s 1-yard touchdown run had given Harrison a 21-0 lead. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Cayden Lee took a slant pass from Chase McCravy and went 75 yards for a first-and-goal at the Harrison 5. Two running plays and an incomplete pass yielded no yardage, and a mishandled halfback pass resulted in a turnover on downs. HIllgrove got no closer to the end zone than the Harrison 28 on its other eight possessions.

Hillgrove finished with 101 yards rushing and 242 total yards. T.J. Thomas had 85 rushing yards on 22 carries, and more than half of the team’s 141 passing yards came on the long pass to Lee.

“Our defense has really played well all year,” Dickmann said. “We had a lot more experience there, and we knew at the beginning of the year that we were going to have to have the offense catch up. And that showed by the way we turned the ball over and kept shooting ourselves in the foot. … Definitely defense is our strong point, but it’s just nice to see that the offense these last four games has really come to play some football.”

Hillgrove - 0-0-0-0 - 0

Harrison - 7-7-14-7 - 35

First quarter

Har. - Jay Ziglor 6 run (Christian Lowery kick), 0:37

Second quarter

Har. - Ed Lynch 46 run (Lowery kick), 6:51

Third quarter

Har. - Jared Montour 1 run (Lowery kick), 7:06

Har. - Ziglor 6 run (Lowery kick), 0:31

Fourth quarter

Har. - Ziglor 6 run (Lowery kick), 9:06

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