GROVE CITY — The Eagles secured at least a share of the Region 3 championship by capping senior recognition festivities with a 20-7 victory over visiting Hickory Friday night at Forker Field.

“This was a great football game between two great teams,” Grove City coach Sam Mowrey said about his club’s victory over Hickory (3-2, 5-3) . “I thought the boys played with outstanding effort and with outstanding attitude. It wasn’t an easy 48 minutes. We’re just so proud of the kids and how they’ve handled adversity. They played together and kept on responding throughout the game.”

Friday night, the Eagles (4-1, 6-2) ground out scoring drives of 15, 14 and 14 plays behind the blocking of tight end Zach Rodgers, tackles Nate Wadsworth and Jacob Blair, guards Dillon Winger and Dylan Ahern and center Gage Dlugonski and held advantages in total yards (331-179) and first downs (22-9).

“You have to give credit to Coach Mowrey for all of that,” Blair said. “He came up with all that. I think we had three or four fourth down conversions tonight. It was great that we were able to convert all those short yardage situations.

“Our o-line stepped up big time tonight and the backs made plays when it counted. (The offensive line) have all been starting since sophomore year together. At some point, we built chemistry. We all know each other. We all have a feel for each other and have been gelling. Our coaches know football is won or lost up front, so a big part of our game plan was wanting to win up front like we did tonight.”

Not to be outdone by the big boys up front, Grove City’s defense forced four turnovers and limited the high-flying Hornets to just 179 yards of total offense — nearly half of their seasonal average of 347 yards.

“We put in our Cover 2 and learned and executed it very well,” Rodgers said. “We knew we had to break up some passes, because they have a good passing game. I think we played really, really well. We had one error and they made us pay for it, but other than that we played light’s out.”

The Eagles displayed their offensive philosophy early, converting three fourth down attempts to cover 65 yards in 6:03 and scoring on the first of two Curtis Hovis’ four-yard touchdown runs.

After a five-play Hornet drive, Grove City converted a Gavin Lutz interception into a 14-play, 91-yard drive and took a 14-0 lead with 8:36 left in the second on Hovis’ second score.

“Offensively, we were trying to take what they were giving us and not get too greedy,” Mowrey said. “We wanted to keep the chains moving and if their offense isn’t on the field they can’t score, but we had to finish those drives by getting into the endzone and tonight we did that.”

Grove City regained possession after a short Hickory possession and embarked on a 15-play drive, but stalled out inside the Hornet 20. Two plays later, Hickory junior Nash Porada turned a short Logan Woods into a 70-yard touchdown with 49 seconds left before intermission to pull the Hornets to within 14-7.

“We just couldn’t get off the field (defensively),” Hickory coach Bill Dungee said. “They took the ball first and didn’t let our offense get any momentum. As an offense, we had three drives (in the first half) and we scored on one of them. When you don’t get the ball, it’s tough to score.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Hickory seemed poised to tie the game at 14, but Hunter Hohman picked off a Woods fourth-down pass in the endzone with 8:38 left in regulation. The Hohman interception came one play after Keenan Scullin dropped a would-be touchdown at the goal line.

“We just failed to execute in the red zone,” Dungee said. “Dropping that one there was big ... that was a touchdown.”

Energized by the pick, the Grovers chewed up yardage — and more importantly almost 6:30 of the clock — marching 80 yards in 14 plays to take a 20-7 lead on a 19-yard strike from Hohman to Rodgers with 2:10 left.

“We called a pass up the middle,” Rodgers said. “We were just trying to get the first down and it just carried over into the end zone. It worked perfectly.”

Offensively, Grove City finished with 331 yards on 73 plays (224 rushing, 107 passing). Hovis went over the 1000-yard mark on the season with a 24-carry, 97-yard, two-touchdown effort, while junior Anthony Nemec contributed another 95 yards on 22 carries.

“We talked about taking care of the football and getting positive gains on every play,” Mowrey said. “I don’t think we had too many negative plays tonight. Even if it was two or three yards, we were able to get ourselves into fourth and short and were able to convert a lot of those. This just speaks volumes about our boys and their patience and character, because it’s hard to do that. It’s hard to put together long drives like that without making a mistake.”

Hickory was led by Woods, who completed 9-of-18 passes for 129 yards.

“We talked about not turning the ball over and we ended up turning the ball over four times, so credit Grove City,” Dungee said. “Even with us not forcing a turnover, we were still in it ... 14-7 ... so we feel good about it. We have a lot of playmakers and (Grove City) did a good job of mixing up defenses — doing some of the things Slippery Rock did to us last week. When you get down like we did and the possessions are low, you can’t run the ball and it makes you predictable.”

NOTES: Grove City celebrated seniors Rodgers, John Hake, Anthony Pereira, Luciano Trezona, Hovis, Wadsworth, Winger, Dlugonski, Cole Hammerman, Madison Warner and Blair prior to the game ... The win was the Eagles’ fourth straight ... Grove City is now 18-17-2 vs Hickory at Forker Field, but the Hornets lead the series 41-31-3 ... Hayden McCreadie (2), Gavin Lutz and Hunter Hohman pilfered Logan Woods passes ... Lutz had a team-high four catches for 39 yards, while classmate Joey Hathaway had three for 28 — including a leaping one-handed grab late in the first half ... Hohman completed 10-of-13 passes for 107 yards ... Hovis now has 1,010 yards rushing on 186 carries for the season and 2,445 yards for his career — fourth in Grove City annals behind Chris Clark (3,534), Foster Reznor (2,941) and Wesley Phipps (2,810) ... Hammerman led the Grove City defense with seven tackles, while McCreadie had five stops.

BOX SCORE

HICKORY 0 7 0 0 7

GROVE CITY 7 7 0 6 20

INDIVIDUAL SCORING PLAYS

GC — Curtis Hovis, 4-yard run (John Hake kick)

GC — Curtis Hovis, 4-yard run (John Hake kick)

H — Nash Porada, 70-yard pass from Logan Woods (Lukas Jones kick)

GC — Zach Rodgers, 19-yard pass from Hunter Hohman (kick blocked)

TEAM STATISTICS

HICKORY GROVE CITY

9 FIRST DOWNS 22

50 RUSH YARDS 224

129 PASS YARDS 107

179 TOTAL YARDS 331

18-9-4 ATT-COM-INT 13-10-0

1-0 FUMBLES-LOST 1-0

7-85 PENALTIES 8-62

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — HICKORY: Nakeem Sholtz-Jones 5-26, Logan Woods 5-16, Ramarion Whitehead 2-5, Sean Kennedy 2-3 Ty Holland 2-1, Keenan Scullin 2-(-1); GROVE CITY: Curtis Hovis 24-97, Anthony Nemec 22-95, Zach Rodgers 5-18, Hunter Hohman 6-17, Team 3-(-3).

PASSING — HICKORY: Logan Woods 9-18-4 129; GROVE CITY: Hunter Hohman 10-13-0 107.

RECEIVING — HICKORY: Keenan Scullin 4-27, Nash Porada 2-74, Jackson Pryts 2-21 Ramarion Whitehead 1-7; GROVE CITY: Gavin Lutz 4-39, Joey Hathaway 3-28, Anthony Pereira 2-21, Zach Rodgers 1-19.

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