Last week the Douglas County football team accomplished their goal of reaching the state playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Tigers defeated Pebblebrook to clinch the fourth seed in Region 3-AAAAAA with a 33-10 victory.
DC (5-5 overall) will now make the short trip to Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs for a first round playoff game. The Hawks (7-3) clinched first in Region 4-AAAAAA last week with a 42-37 win over McEachern.
Hillgrove has lost only one game over the last six weeks. The Hawks opened the season with a 47-35 victory over Lassister. After beating Shiloh, 14-6, Hillgrove lost two straight games, to North Gwinnett (28-21) and Lovejoy (27-24). After the losses, the Hawks turned their fortune around with four straight wins. They defeated Marietta (34-0), North Cobb (28-7), North Paulding (72-46) and Kennesaw Mountain (42-37). Hillgrove fell to Harrison (43-42) before beating McEachern for the title.
Hillgrove’s average of 37 points per game on offense tied for first in the region with McEachern. They were fourth in points allowed, allowing 26 per game.
The Hawks’ high powered offense is led by quarterback Matthew Wilson and running back Sonny Harris. Wilson has completed 121-of-195 passes for 1,570 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has thrown only three interceptions and does a good job of spreading the ball around to many receivers. Harris has rushed 141 times for 1,125 yards (eight yard average) and 14 TD’s.
“Hillgrove is defensively well coached and they play hard,” said DC coach Jason Respert. “We will have to execute well and match their effort.”
Hillgrove’s defense is led by linebacker Cameron Tew, who has 108 total tackles, 68 solo and 40 assisted. Defensive end Josh Price leads the team in sacks with 5.5. Corner back/free safety Jalen Phelps has three interceptions.
“Hillgrove runs a read style offense which is very similar to ours,” Respert said. “We will have to take care of the football and be disciplined.”
The 2014 season did not start the way Douglas County would have liked with back-to-back losses to two county teams, New Manchester (35-20) and Alexander (30-12). The Tigers snapped the streak in their third non-region game with a 35-9 victory over Kennesaw Mountain. However, DC fell to Langston Hughes in the Region 3-AAAAAA opener, 24-9.
The Tigers rebounded with two straight victories over Newnan (46-30) and South Cobb (40-30). Two losses to Westlake (34-3) and East Coweta (28-14) put Douglas County in a tough spot, needing to win their final two games to go to the playoffs.
DC had luck on their side with the bottom two teams in the region scheduled over the last two games. The Tigers destroyed Campbell, 47-14, and then rolled through Pebblebrook. East Coweta defeated South Cobb in the final game of the regular season, assuring Douglas County would earn a playoff berth.
Douglas County finished fourth in the region in offensive output this year with 25 points per game. They were fourth defensively, allowing 24 points per game.
The Tiger offense was led by quarterback Malik Oliver and receivers Donovan Richardson and D’Ondre Glenn. Oliver was a multi-threat QB who really turned up his game over the last five games of the year. He finished the regular season with a completion percentage of 58 percent. He threw for 1,488 yards and 15 touchdowns. Oliver had only seven interceptions. Oliver also had 376 yards on the ground off 122 carries.
Richardson led the Tiger receivers with 605 yards on 43 receptions for 12 touchdowns. Glenn had 556 yards on 39 catches. He has found the endzone twice.
“Our offense is developing,” Respert said. “We lost three starters to the offensive line at the beginning of the year after only returning three to the entire offense. It is a work in progress and we have done a better job moving the ball.”
The DC defense has been group led. The leading tacklers are linebacker Drake Battle (77), defensive back Joe Caldwell (62), defensive lineman Malik Hampton (54), defensive lineman DeOnta Coker (49), and outside linebacker Austin Perry (41). Hampton leads the team with eight tackles for a loss. Coker leads the team with 5.5 sacks, followed by Perry (5), Hampton (4.5) and defensive lineman Jonathan Cline (3). Avery leads the team with three interceptions.
“We have a lot of first time starters on defense, including a lot of sophomores and first time playing juniors,” Respert said. “They have learned and progressed well over the year. I look forward to see what they can do against Hillgrove.”
Friday’s game time is set for 7:30 p.m.