It was two-and-a- half hours before toe met leather at the massive Walter L. Cantrell Stadium on the beautiful campus of McEachern High School. As the theme song from “Rocky” blared over the speakers and the roar of the Hillgrove supporters, the 6th-ranked High Hawks came struttin’ into the stadium, making that three-and-a-half mile journey to their most hated football rival. The Hawks had that pre-game swagger that provided a strong clue that this Football Friday was going to be their night.
During my pre-game conversation with Hawks’ head coach Phil Ironside, Coach gestured and said, “Look over there: this is why I left Campbell High in Smyrna to build this.” Phil was describing a sea of Crimson and White, that same Hillgrove Nation who followed to support guys on their BIGGEST game to this point. The Hawks would face the top ranked McEachern Indians, led by Coach Kyle Hockman. Like Ironside, Coach Hockman left Campbell to continue the tradition built by legend Jimmy Dorsey. Hockman’s and Ironside’s teams would battle in the game that gave us lots of turnovers, some exciting plays, and every bit of the drama. Not to the tune of 2010's 64-48 donnybrooke, but this year's game had the same intrigue.
In the end it was the Hillgrove Hawks who would prevail 12-10. Hillgrove’s football program hatched in 2006, and they were looking for that signature win. This victory over McEachern meant something: It was against an old friend, it was against the top rated team in the GREAT State of Georgia, it was a victory that received national recognition, and MOST importantly, it was against their most hated rival.
The Hillgrove Hawks’ "Rocky" landed that knockout punch, dropping the TOP ranked Indians to canvas and it was done in enemy territory for the first time ever. How sweet was that?! Hillgrove star tailback and Alabama-bound Kenyan Drake, who battled leg cramps and spasms to run for 24 carries and 187 yards, summed up the Hawks victory in my GPB Sports blog. Enjoy!
Let’s hope that next week’s match-up in Conyers between Flowery Branch and Heritage High Schools give us some more of we got last week in Powder Springs. GPB's PRIMETIME coverage of Football Friday starts at 8PM Eastern/5PM/Pacific. Join Mark Harmon, Jon Nelson, Jackie Brittain, Chrissy Warrilow, Coach Dave Hunter, Trey McDaniel, and Moi for the BEST High School Football in the State of Georgia, Bar None!