Warriors travel to Hillgrove in must-win region matchup


Michael Smith

A sneak peak into the Hillgrove Hawk defense

Michael Smith, Sports editor

NC’s football team heads to Powder Springs to take on the Hillgrove Hawks in a must-win game for what will most likely decide the second spot in the region and home field advantage.

Last season, the Warriors gritted out a tough victory at Emory Sewell, led by tough, physical running by CJ Cole and Jai Erwin. This matchup returns both players and adds to the depth with sophomore Christian Singleton, senior Quannie Green, and other key players who have all shown a willingness and ability to tote the rock.  

This season the Hawks have rotated between two quarterbacks, junior Hunter Arters (12), who has primarily thrown the ball for the Hawks, and senior Bryson Parks (14) has provided a dual threat option for the Hawks, reliably carrying the ball and completing safe, easy passes. Offensively, the Hawks will commonly bring four receivers and employ a “stack” look, placing one receiver directly behind another more frequently than most teams. The Hillgrove passing offense primarily runs through Chigoziem Okonkwo, a 6’3” junior with three top-level division 1 offers. The running game primarily uses base-inside zone blocking and the occasional pull from a quarterback.

Defensively, the Hawks rely on a big defensive line to try and keep linebackers free from blockers, and almost always blitz one of its two outside linebackers from its 3-4 personnel. The defensive coverage itself varies fairly frequently, but the Hawk’s base look, “quarters coverage,” places the safeties and corners in charge of one deep quarter of the field and the linebackers responsible underneath. In 2016 however, defensive coverages have evolved to “pattern match” in potentially exploitable assignments: instructing players to adjust their path based on the offenses movement. So expect the Hawk’s corners to attempt and jump some quick out-breaking routes. Sophomore Jaylen McCollough leads the Hawks’ defensive group as a running back and safety who already has two SEC offers.

Just like last season’s matchup and much of the 2016 season, expect the Warriors to pound the ball inside and trust the offensive line to create holes for NC’s deep and talented group of ball carriers. Even with a thin and injured receiving core, the Warriors will most likely attempt to create some one-on-one matchups with the Hawk corners, especially off play action, as both corners measure 5’8”. This game should lend to plenty of fast, physical football as the two teams claw for home field advantage.

The Chant’s prediction: NC: 31, Hillgrove: 13