The Indians have thrived in the regular season over the last three seasons, having lost just two games in that stretch, but couldn’t get any further than the second round of the state playoffs.
McEachern suffered a first-round loss to Brookwood in 2009 after going undefeated during the regular season. Valdosta got it in the second round in 2010 and Lassiter stopped them last year.
With nothing else to play for at the moment, McEachern is treating tonight’s rivalry against Hillgrove as a precursor to the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
“We’re taking this as an opportunity to continue our improvement as a playoff team going up against a rival,” Hockman said. “It will be a playoff-like atmosphere. This will be a good environment to see where we’re at and to learn about ourselves. It will be a tuneup for both of us going into the playoffs.”
Last year’s contest was a 12-10 victory by the Hawks. It was arguably the biggest game of the 2011 regular season in Cobb County as it matched a No. 6 Hillgrove against No. 1 McEachern.
While this meeting between the Hawks and Indians may not be between a pair of ranked teams, it still may have ramifications.
Hillgrove’s playoff spot appears secure, but unless it gets significant help from Marietta and North Cobb, the Hawks will most likely be the fourth seed out of the region.
The Hawks are currently in a three-way tie for second in 4AAAAAA but lost to both teams. The only possible way they can move up in the standings is if North Cobb falls to Campbell and Marietta succumbs to Harrison. Both teams are expected to prevail.
McEachern has won seven straight since dropping its opening games of the season to returning state champion Grayson and state finalist Walton. A team that has been known to throw the ball in recent years, the Indians have taken advantage of both their speed and depth in the backfield.
The Indians have as many as five players now who can run with the football.
The Indians had arguably their best rushing performance last week in their region-clinching
61-21 victory over Harrison, totaling 503 yards on the ground. Ty Clemons ignited the ground game for McEachern with 159 yards on five carries and two touchdowns.
Ryan Sherman also had a breakout game with 122 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Ty Griffin, who has been the catalyst of McEachern’s running game the last three weeks, added 72 yards and a score.
Taj Griffin and Mike Sherman have been additional running options for McEachern, combining for more than 1,100 yards, giving the Indians three runners with more than 600 yards for the season.
“We’re getting more comfortable with what each kid can do, and offensive line-wise, we are good at blocking,” Hockman said. “We just need to keep getting better. It sounds cliche but it’s cliche for a reason.”
Hillgrove is on a three-game winning streak in which it is averaging more than 30 points a game. The Hawks were balanced between the run and the pass in last week’s 37-14 win over South Cobb.
The offense capitalized on South Cobb’s turnovers. Quarterback Troy Thompson completed 13 of 17 pass attempts for 133 yards and two touchdowns.