After watching his team let most of a 28-10 third-quarter lead slip away, North Cobb sophomore Christian Singleton came up with big plays on both sides of the ball to preserve a 35-28 victory over host Hillgrove in a Region 3-AAAAAAA game Friday in Powder Springs.
The win left North Cobb and Hillgrove tied for second place in the region, with North Cobb holding the tiebreaker, heading into the final weekend of the regular season. North Cobb (7-2, 3-1) will be the second-place team if it beats last-place Kennesaw Mountain next week or Hillgrove (5-4, 3-1) loses to first-place and fourth-ranked McEachern. A Hillgrove upset, however, could create a three-way tie for first place that would be decided by point differential. The top two teams in each region host first-round playoff games.
“Now we’ve got a chance to host a playoff game, which is huge, especially when you’re facing Region 1,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “You’d like for those guys to travel for four or five hours instead of you traveling four or five hours. And we’ve still got a chance at the big prize too if Hillgrove goes over and plays McEachern like they do every year.”
Hillgrove had crept to within 28-25 and had the ball at the North Cobb 46 with 9:55 to play with a chance to tie or take the lead. That’s when Singleton intercepted a Hunter Arters pass and returned it to the Hillgrove 37-yard line. Three plays later, he scored on a 21-yard run to give the Warriors a 35-25 lead with 7:45 remaining. It was one of two rushing touchdowns for Singleton, who finished with 72 yards on 10 carries.
“He manned up,” Queen said of Singleton. “He had that interception, and then running the ball down the stretch, it was just unbelievable for a sophomore.”
Singleton’s first touchdown, on a 4-yard run, gave the Warriors a 28-10 lead with 5:04 to play in the third quarter. But Hillgrove cut the lead to three points with touchdowns on its next two possessions. Arters threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Justin Tew and 7 yards to Jonathan Elder, then a two-point conversion to Tew to cut the lead to 28-25 with 11:06 remaining.
After Singleton restored the Warriors’ lead to 10 points, Hillgrove’s Jason Pierce kicked a school-record 47-yard field goal with 2:20 to play, but the Hawks were unable to recover an onside kick, and the Warriors ran out the clock.
North Cobb finished with a 403-400 advantage in total offense. Quarterback Will Lovett was 14-for-18 passing for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
Arters was 24-of-38 passing for 290 yards and three touchdowns for Hillgrove, which also got 82 yards rushing on 16 carries by Jaylen McCollough.
Hillgrove took the early lead on its second possession, driving 59 yards in eight plays and scoring on a 3-yard pass from Arters to Chigoziem Okonkwo with 4:41 to play in the first quarter.
However, North Cobb grabbed control of the game with touchdowns on three of its next four possessions to make in 21-7 with 4:42 to play in the half. Lovett had touchdown passes of 6 yards to Trey Urquhart, 54 yards to Imad Strozier and 70 yards to Drew Tejchman.
Hillgrove cut the deficit to 21-10 when Jason Pierce kicked a 45-yard field goal just before halftime.
North Cobb - 7-14-7-7 - 35
Hillgrove - 7-3-7-11 -28
H - Chigoziem Okonkwo 3 pass from Hunter Arters (Jason Pierce kick)
N - Trey Urquhart 6 pass from Will Lovett (Will Horton kick)
N - Imad Strozier 54 pass from Lovett (Horton kick)
N - Drew Tejchman 70 pass from Lovett (Horton kick)
H - Pierce 45 field goal
N - Christian Singleton 4 run (Horton kick)
H - Justin Tew 12 pass from Arters (Pierce kick)
H - Jonathan Elder 7 pass from Arters (Tew pass from Arters)
N - Singleton 21 run (Horton kick)
H - Pierce 47 field goal.