POWDER SPRINGS -- It took overtime, but Hillgrove was able to outlast Etowah on a late defensive stop and field goal to win 27-24 and move to 4-0 on the season.
Etowah (2-3) managed only 2 yards to begin overtime before settling for a field goal attempt. Reuben Lowery got his hand on the ball and it sailed wide, leaving Hillgrove the possibility to win with any score.
The Hawks ran only two plays before sending Jose Chaires out to try and win the game. He hit from 27 yards, with plenty of room to spare.
"It’s funny because we didn’t say who was going to go kick it,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. "The coaches asked and I said, 'Let (Chaires) kick it. He came running up.' He didn’t bat an eye and said, 'It's mine,’ and went and did it.”
The overtime heroics masked a sloppy football game. Hillgrove lost a pair of fumbles and Etowah turned the ball over four times, with one turning out to be possibly the biggest play of the game.
An Etowah fumble on the first possession of the second half was scooped by Jourdan Smith and returned 20 yards for a touchdown. That made the score 17-7 at the time.
“We played well,” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “We’re a good football team and we played well. We deserved to be in that game, and if we don’t turn the ball over four times, we probably win that game.”
This was the fifth defensive touchdown Hillgrove has scored in its four games this season. It has at least one in each game.
Hillgrove also cashed in on turnovers early. The Hawks started the scoring after a Dalton Miller pass was intercepted by Lowery. The Hawks drove as far as the 12-yard line before being stopped and having to settle for a 39-yard Chaires field goal and a 3-0 lead.
On the next drive, a Myles Murphy sack put Etowah in a third-and-long situation, and Miller was again intercepted, this time by Zach Parker. Hillgrove connected on a long pass -- 36 yards from Mathew McCravy to Trevarus Walker -- that put the Hawks up 10-0.
Nick Maddox, who rushed for 110 yards on the night, found the end zone in the second quarter for Etowah to cut the lead to 10-7. He scored again in the third after Smith’s fumble return to make it a one-possession game.
Hillgrove responded through a Braylen Howard 46-yard touchdown from McCravy. A Blake Bohannon touchdown and a field goal tied the score and sent the game to overtime.
Garrett Wilds led the way on the ground for the Hawks, rushing for 96 yards on 19 carries. McCravy finished 20-of-33 passing for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
“Etowah played great,” Ironside said. “They didn’t come in here intimidated and they didn’t take a step back from us and did some good things. Not a real well-played ball game. You like your resilience at the end, but I thought a lot of our problems were Etowah.”