In 2010, the Hawks beat the Wildcats on the road in the second round of the state playoffs and made their longest postseason run to date, reaching the quarterfinals. Last season was a different story with Hillgrove losing by 35 points in the first round.
Win or lose tonight, eighth-ranked Hillgrove (10-1) can count on No. 1 Camden County (10-1) and its community to give a tremendous effort both on the field and off.
“It’s first-class,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said on what the atmosphere is like at Camden County. “They treat you right, win or lose. The facilities are great. They’re very gracious hosts, and that’s the way high school football ought to be. It’s a great place to play and compete. It’s been a real good atmosphere both times we’ve been. They have really good crowds and good excitement.”
Ironside noted that games in Cobb County also have good crowds and good excitement. However, Camden County does have one significant difference.
“The facilities are the biggest difference,” he said. “They’re building to one school whereas we’re building to 17 or whatever number it is. That makes a difference. Their stadium is kind of like going over to McEachern’s. To them, it’s no different, but it’s way different to all us other guys.
“Another difference is personnel.
They have 170 kids dressed out. “They probably have 25 to 30 coaches. It’s an event down there. They can’t hardly practice because they have so many guys in the spring.”
Quarterback Elijah Ironside, who was a freshman when Hillgrove won at Camden in 2010, also noted some differences based on his two trips to the school.
“Their side of the field is packed,” he said. “It’s a small town, and it seems like everybody is there.”
Like 2010, Hillgrove has won several games in a row and enters tonight’s contest having won its first round matchup. The Wildcats were also ranked No. 1 in 2010. The 2012 squad was a game above .500 enering the postseason.
“Obviously, being 10-1 you have a lot more momentum than being 6-4 going into the playoffs,” Phil Ironside said. “We’re a totally different group than we were last year. They are also. Don’t let the bigness of the game get you out of sync early and get you in some hole you can’t get out of. I think weathering that early storm, for both of us, will be important. We need to just settle in and play.”
Ironside believes his players have the right attitude entering the game.
“They’re very unselfish kids,” he said. “They enjoy playing and they’re kids that are fun to coach. That’s why we’ve had success. Either that will be our strength (tonight), or it won’t be. That’s the thing, these kids are always going to play hard. They have a great attitude in practice, and that’s the strength of our team.”
Game: Hillgrove (10-1) at Camden County (10-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Camden County 52, Hillgrove 17
All-time series: Tied 1-1
Prediction: Camden County 35, Hillgrove 24