With the win, Hillgrove (9-1, 7-1) secured the No. 2 seed from Region 4AAAAAA and evened the rivalry of Powder Springs neighbors at two wins apiece.
McEachern (8-2, 6-2) was left to settle for the No. 3 seed, deflated after seeing quarterback Ty Clemons go down with a leg injury early in the second quarter. Although the severity of Clemons’ injury could not be confirmed in the moments after Friday’s game, he left the field in an ambulance, with what McEachern athletic director Jimmy Dorsey thought could have been a broken lower leg.
Before his injury, Clemons had scored consecutive touchdowns in the first quarter, from 2 and 5 yards out. He was 5-of-9 passing for 91 yards before going down at the 10:36 mark of the second quarter, after converting a first down on a 3-yard run up the middle.
McEachern’s offense stalled after Clemons’ injury. All the Indians managed from that point on was a field goal in the final minute of the first half.
“There is still life and we live to fight another day,” said McEachern coach Kyle Hockman, whose freshman son, Bailey, stands to become the Indians’ starting quarterback for however long the postseason lasts.
McEachern and Hillgrove won’t find out who their first playoff opponents are until tonight, after Region 2AAAAAA’s final game, between Morrow and postseason contender Newton, is played.
Bagley got Hillgrove started on the second play of the game when he burst through the middle for a 77-yard touchdown. Then, on the first play of McEachern’s opening drive, Clemons threw an interception to Quincey Nelson.
Hillgrove capitalized two plays later when Elijah Ironside connected with Omar Black for a 26-yard touchdown catch at the right corner of the end zone.
After the Indians went three-and-out on their following drive, the Hawks struck again five plays later when Ironside threw a screen pass to Emmanuel Beal that turned into a 39-yard touchdown.
“We were able to get momentum offensively and defensively and got things going early,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “You never know, going into this game, what you’re going to get.”
Trailing by four at the half, McEachern was still within reach.
Even after Hillgrove’s Andrew Gaughn kicked a 23-yard field goal to cap a 12-play drive that chewed up more than half the third quarter, all the Indians needed was a touchdown to even the score.
But Hillgrove’s defense was stubborn. It stopped McEachern four straight times to begin the second half — the third occasion by forcing a fumble at the snap, which Bradley Chubb recovered.
The Hawks then scored again to gain separation midway through the fourth quarter, when Bagley broke through the middle once again for a 37-yard touchdown with 4:30 left.
“I felt he played big,” Phil Ironside said of Bagley. “He always plays well against McEachern. I knew he was going to have a good night, and he did.”
Elijah Ironside completed 10 of 18 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns for the Hawks. Black had two catches for 58 yards, and Beal finished with 46 yards on two catches.
Alize Chubbs led McEachern on the ground with 78 yards on 15 carriers. The Hawks limited the Indians’ top rusher, Taj Griffin, to 58 yards on 13 carries.