WARNER ROBINS -- Not getting to the pylon might have cost Northside a chance to play for a state championship last year.
Keshun Hill wasn’t going to see a replay of that Friday night in front of an overflow crowd at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
The Northside senior left his feet at the 4-yard line and went airborne to get into the end zone to give the Eagles a two-touchdown lead over rival Warner Robins with less than three minutes to play. Hill’s fourth touchdown of the day proved to be margin of victory as Northside beat Warner Robins 35-28 to win the GHSA Region 2-AAAAA championship.
Hill accounted for 177 yards of offense. He caught two touchdowns and rushed for two others. Northside quarterback Glenn Smith tied the series record set by former Gov. Sonny Perdue in the first-ever Northside-Warner Robins game with three touchdown passes.
“I just saw the angle I had, and there was no way I wasn’t going to score,” Hill said of the 25-yard touchdown run that clinched the victory. “You have to want it.”
The Eagles couldn’t finish off a similar play against Tucker in last year’s state semifinals, and Northside went on to fumble on the next play and lost when the Tigers returned it the length of the field for a touchdown.
“We preach it, ‘Get it in the end zone. Get it in the end zone.’ He did it right there,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said.
Listen: Kinsler talks about the win over Warner Robins
Hill’s electric play in the second half helped the Eagles (9-0) fend off a furious rally by the Demons (7-2).
Much like in 2009 and 2011, Warner Robins didn’t collapse after falling behind by at least 20 points in the first half.
“We were still in the ballgame, and all we had to do was make some plays,” Demons head coach Bryan Way said.
Despite trailing 21-0 with 14 seconds left in the second quarter, Dyvonte Collins intercepted a Smith pass intended for Hill to quell Northside’s momentum.
The Demons went 86 yards on 10 plays on the opening drive of the second half, scoring on a 36-yard touchdown run by Caden Johnston. The quarterback pulled the ball on a read option play earlier in the drive for a big gain, and he did so again on the touchdown run.
Warner Robins got the ball back quickly following a Rod Harris interception, and the Demons made it a one-score game on a 6-yard touchdown by DeDe Wright with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Hill become a momentum killer for the Eagles, however, answering the Demons’ touchdown with an 18-yard touchdown run to give Northside a 28-14 lead.
The Demons pulled to within seven following a 1-yard plunge by Wright, and they had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie. Northside senior Marquez Moore, however, found some redemption for a costly penalty earlier in the game by intercepting Johnston with 3:34 to play. Hill scored on his 25-yard touchdown run two plays later for a 35-21 lead. Warner Robins would score a late touchdown with two seconds left.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Way said. “If we’d have caught a break and got another turnover and (got to within one), we were going for (a two-point conversion). I don’t know if we played all week if we could stop them. ... You can’t spot good teams 21 points.”
Listen: Way talks about the game
The Eagles jumped out to the big lead through the air.
Smith tossed touchdown passes to Charlton Lane and Hill in the first quarter and added a second touchdown pass to Hill late in the second quarter to push the Eagles to a 21-0 lead. Smith had never thrown more than 11 passes in a game before tossing 15 in the first half Friday. His season-high for yardage was 92 yards against Lakeside-Evans. He had 116 yards before halftime against the Demons.