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Broncos draw young Hillgrove program on rise

Brookwood's Nick Tompkins (32) goes up over the pile as he is tackled by Norcross' Martavius Edwards (1) last Friday.

Brookwood's Nick Tompkins (32) goes up over the pile as he is tackled by Norcross' Martavius Edwards (1) last Friday.

Brookwood head football coach Mark Crews called Camden County a “name-brand,” which is why most fans expected his Broncos to play the defending state champion in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Instead, they will host a new brand.

HILLGROVE AT BROOKWOOD

Who: Hillgrove Hawks (4-AAAAA) at Brookwood Broncos (8-AAAAA)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Brookwood High School (From I-85, go east on Pleasant Hill Road and merge onto Ronald Reagan Parkway. Proceed to the Five Forks-Trickum Road exit. Turn right and the next left on Dogwood Road. School is on the right)

Coaches: Phillip Ironside, Hillgrove; Mark Crews, Brookwood

Records: Hillgrove 10-2; Brookwood 11-1

Last week: Hillgrove beat Camden County 28-26; Brookwood beat Norcross 34-24

Winner plays: Collins Hill-Lowndes winner

Hillgrove Leaders:

Rushing: Kenyan Drake 906

Passing: Gage Henry 2,024

Receiving: JoJo Marshall 681

Brookwood Leaders:

Rushing: Nick Tompkins, 1,543 yards

Jamaal Cole, 897 yards

Passing: Ben McLane, 1,868 yards

Receiving: A.J. Sims, 674 yards

Tackles: Cameron Lynch, 152

Connor Hennessey, 94

Interceptions: Nick Moore, 6

Game-by-game:

Hillgrove

Hawks (10-2)

Sprayberry W 23-14

at Marietta W 17-14

North Forsyth W 42-28

at South Cobb L 20-19

at Harrison W 21-0

McEachern L 64-48

North Cobb W 39-27

at Pebblebrook W 21-3

Kennesaw Mnt. W 34-7

at Campbell W 35-16

at Stephenson W 28-23

at Camden Co. W 28-26

Brookwood

Broncos (11-1)

*Walton W 27-10

at Collins Hill W 45-38

Dacula L 24-14

at Archer W 37-0

Central W 59-13

at South W 42-21

Shiloh W 44-0

at Parkview W 10-3

Grayson W 10-0

at Berkmar W 45-20

Alpharetta W 44-13

Norcross W 34-24

*Georgia Dome

Hillgrove, a Cobb County school that opened in 2006, ended Camden’s two-year reign as state champion with a 28-26 upset last Friday, setting up a matchup with another perennial power Friday in Brookwood.

“Camden’s reputation speaks for itself, they’ve won state championships and they have that history, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have a state champion every year,” Crews said. “(Hillgrove) did a good job of controlling the ball and beating a good football team last week. ... Hillgrove certainly sent out a notice that they’re a very good football team. They’re not just a one-week wonder, either. Those guys have done it all year long.”

So no Camden Friday for the Broncos (11-1), but Crews isn’t expecting an easier time with Hillgrove (10-2). The Hawks have won six in a row since a wild, 64-48 loss to McEachern and their best effort was a week ago, a victory all the way down in Kingsland.

Top college prospect Kenyan Drake, a quick running back, leads the Hillgrove offense while the defense centers around 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days, a Georgia Tech commitment.

“(Hunt-Days) is a really good player,” Crews said. “He’s strong and fast.”

Brookwood has a pretty good linebacker itself in Cameron Lynch, a Syracuse commitment with 152 tackles and a school-record 16 sacks. He’s part of a defense that has gotten better throughout the season. Safety Nick Moore intercepted two more passes last week against Norcross, giving him six on the season.

“I’m proud of the way we’re playing on defense,” Crews said. “I don’t know that we’ve got a bunch of all-stars on defense, but we’ve got a bunch of kids who are playing hard.”

They join an offense that has thrived from the start. Quarterback Ben McLane and wide receiver A.J. Sims, a Michigan State commitment, returned from last year’s team for a promising passing game, while an improved offensive line and the tandem of young backs Nick Tompkins and Jamaal Cole have led to big offensive outputs.

The Broncos hope that’s a combination that can lead to a victory Friday and beyond. With Camden County and North Gwinnett eliminated last week, it made the AAAAA title chase even more wide open.

“We sort of felt like we had a chance (to win state) before Camden lost,” Crews said. “You just put your nose down every week and do the best you can. You want to go as far as you can go and work your butt off. You want to say at the end, either we won it all or we did the best we could. You don’t want to say, ‘What if we hadn’t fumbled that ball? What if we hadn’t made that mistake?’ You want to play your best and either win it all or lose to a team that’s better than you.”