The Creek Wood Red Hawks had every reason to go through the motions against Hillwood on Friday night. The Hilltoppers were celebrating homecoming, held a 28-6 lead in the third, and had a personnel advantage as everyday starting punter and noseguard Garrett Dolinich was out with a sickness and starting linebacker Stetson Spicer (who was punting in Dolinich’s absence) was injured during the game and did not return. Creek Wood’s special teams struggled on the night, with a blocked punt and a blocked extra point in the game. And a driving rain throughout the game led to 5 lost fumbles, 3 lost by the visiting Creek Wood side.
The Red Hawks did not care about the odds, however. A solid effort with 18 unanswered second half points pulled CWHS within 4 late in the game, but as Creek Wood made its final drive and looked for its first lead in the game, Hillwood picked off Peyton Gibbs for the only pick on the night, and the Toppers salted away a 28-24 Region win.
Eli McCorkle was a workhorse for the Hilltoppers, ramming the rock 11 times on the opening drive for 47 yards and a touchdown. That drive took 4:44 off the first quarter clock and covered 65 yards to put the hometown Toppers up 7-0. Creek Wood’s ensuing drive would start with good field positioning but the offense quickly stalled, and with the punt blocked Hillwood got the ball on the Red Hawk 22 and quickly cashed in to make it a 14-0 lead off McCorkle’s second touchdown run of the night.
Creek Wood answered back on the next drive, chewing up just over 3 minutes before Quinton Poole found the endzone from a yard out. His extra point try was blocked, and with 40 seconds left in the first it was 14-6 Hillwood. The Toppers drove the ball well on the ensuing drive, but fumbled the ball away in the rain at the Red Hawks’ 14. Creek Wood returned the favor with a one-play drive ending with a fumble at the 10, and the Toppers made it 21-6 in the first half with a Deshawn Kinzer rushing score. Kinzer rushed 6 times in the first half for 27 yards and a score for Hillwood; McCorkle had 21 first half carries for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Creek Wood looked to establish itself in the third, but Jordan King recovered a Red Hawk fumble and scored to seemingly ice the game 28-6, but Creek Wood didn’t go away. Poole had a 21 yard rush for a first down, then rushed from 12 out to score on the very next play. Poole was stopped on the 2-point try, but the Red Hawks cut the lead back to 28-12 with 3:55 left in the third. A 13 yard option keeper for Gibbs opened the fourth for Creek Wood, then Poole struck again from 54 yards away. A penalty pushed back the 2-point try, and Gibbs was dropped on the attempt, but the Red Hawks trimmed the lead down to 28-18 with 11:23 left in regulation.
A solid drive by the Toppers ended abruptly with another fumble, and after some big running plays Creek Wood cashed in as Gibbs found his returning tight end Hayden Boone on the hot pass for a 45 yard touchdown pass. Gibbs was sacked on the 2 point try, but the score was 28-24 with 4:40 left. The Red Hawk defense stepped up on a third and four, sacking Terron Smith for a 1 yard loss and forcing a punt that went into the endzone for a touchback. A big 17 yard rush by Gibbs helped key the offense, but on a third and six, Gibbs floated the ball over the middle and it was picked off by Smith to set the Toppers up. A third down scramble by Smith picked up 37 yards and let the mobile quarterback kneel on the ball and run out the clock, as the Hilltoppers escaped with a 4 point win.
Poole earned MVP honors, scoring 3 touchdowns for the Red Hawks in the comeback effort. Creek Wood finished with 291 total yards–63 through the air and 228 on the ground, with Poole earning 109 rushing yards himself.
Creek Wood travels to Loretto for a final non-region game, then after the bye week finishes with two critical region contests if the Red Hawks want to try to make the postseason.