Marietta 38, Hillgrove 17

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Marietta, unable to shake Hillgrove for the better part of three quarters that had been controlled by the defenses, broke loose in the final 13 minutes and beat the Hawks 38-17 at home Friday in a Region 3-AAAAAAA game.

Kimani Vidal’s two touchdown runs midway through the second half – and 9-yarder with 17 seconds to play in the third quarter and an 8-yarder early in the fourth – put seventh-ranked Marietta in control with a 31-10 lead.

Both touchdowns followed short punts by Hillgrove and long passes by Marietta quarterback Harrison Bailey. Hillgrove’s 18-yard punt late in the third quarter gave Marietta the ball at the Hillgrove 48. Two plays later, Bailey threw a 39-yard pass to Ricky White that moved the ball to the Hillgrove 9, and Vidal scored on the next play.

After Marietta forced a three-and-out on Hillgrove’s next possession, a 25-yard punt set Marietta up at midfield. Bailey threw 42 yards to Arik Gilbert on the next play, and Vidal followed with his second touchdown.

Hillgrove scored on its next possession on a 7-yard pass from Matthew McCravy to Trevarus Walker to cut the lead to 31-17 with 8:15 remaining, but White caught a 14-yard touchdown passing in the closing minutes to put the game away.

Friday’s scores | More coverage on ajc.com

“We made some big plays in the passing game,” Marietta coach Richard Morgan said. “In the first half we were doing some things in the passing game, but in the second half we got the big shots down the field that really flipped the field position. Then in the fourth quarter, we were able to run the ball and run the clock out, which is what we wanted to be able to do. They’ve got a great defense, and their defensive line is tremendous, so for us to be able to run the ball a little bit was a good sign for us.”

The victory clinched second place in the region for Marietta (7-2, 3-1) and secured a home playoff game in the first round, which will be against the winner of next weekend’s Camden County-Tift County game. Sixth-ranked Hillgrove (7-2, 2-2) will face North Cobb next week in a game that will decide third and fourth place in the region. The loser of that game will open the playoffs on the road against top-ranked Lowndes.

“Just to be able to play in front of your fans and stuff like that, that’s a big deal,” Morgan said of earning a home playoff game. “And beating Hillgrove, who’s been a dominant team in this area for all these years, is huge for our program as we continue to build it.”

Marietta had 101 yards of total offense in the first half but finished with 360. Bailey completed 24 of 30 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns. White had 11 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Arik Gilbert had eight catches for 88 yards.

High School Sports

Vidal, who was held to 10 yards rushing and minus-4 yards receiving in the first half, finished with 77 yards rushing on 12 carries and 48 receiving yards on three catches.

“They’re real resilient kids,” Morgan said of his offensive stars. “They always pick each other up. You know, we’re not perfect but we’re trying to be perfect and we’re getting better every week. That’s all you can do at this time of the year, is to try and play your best football in November and December, and hopefully we’re moving that way.”

Marietta took advantage of another mistake by the Hillgrove punting unit to score its first touchdown of the night. The Hawks, kicking from the Marietta 46-yard line on their opening possession, snapped the ball over the punter’s head, resulting in a 35-yard loss and giving the Blue Devils the ball at the Hillgrove 19. Marietta scored two plays later on an 17-yard pass from Bailey to White for a 7-0 lead.

Hillgrove answered on its next possession, driving 58 yards in 11 plays and tying the game on an 8-yard pass from McCravy to Jalen Royals on the first play of the second quarter.

Marietta reclaimed the lead on its next possession on an 11-yard pass from Bailey to Taji Johnson.

An interception by Hillgrove’s Reuben Lowery set up the final points of the half, a 20-yards field goal by Jonathan Grote with 1:06 to play in the half that cut Marietta’s lead to 14-10.

Hillgrove finished with 14 yards rushing, a number that was skewed by the 35-yard loss on the punt snap, on 19 carries. McCravy was 24-of-40 passing for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

Hillgrove – 0-10-0-7 – 17

Marietta – 7-7-10-14- 38

First quarter

M – Ricky White 17 pass from Harrison Bailey (Cooper Kipp kick)

Second quarter

H – Jalen Royals 8 pass from Matthew McCravy (Jonathan Grote kick)

M – Taji Johnson 11 pass from Bailey (Kipp kick)

H – Grote 20 field goal

Third quarter

M – Kipp 20 field goal

M – Kimani Vidal 9 run (Kipp kick)

Fourth quarter

M – Vidal 8 run (Kipp kick)

H – Trevarus Walker 7 pass from McCravy (Grote kick)

M – White 14 pass from Bailey (Kipp kick)

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