Branch Train! 6 Rushing TDs Lift Knights Over CW

Creek Wood interim Head Football Coach Chuck Daniel had a simple answer on the RFC Sports Hour Wednesday night on WDKN and The One FM when asked what Kenwood would do offensively besides run the ball with Antwuan Branch on Friday night. To paraphrase–They’ll run Branch, then run him some more…and then they’ll run it with Branch again.

The prediction came true as the Knights came down from Clarksville and spoiled Senior Night. Branch touched the ball on 8 of Kenwood’s first 9 plays, accounted for 80% of the team’s yards from scrimmage in the entire game, and finished with 6 touchdowns as the Knights pulled away late for a 49-27 win.

Creek Wood started the game with some bold calls that paid off. The Red Hawks, who needed a win to virtually lock up a playoff spot, won the coin toss and deferred their choice to the second half. Luke Ptak kicked a squibb on the ground, and the up-back fumbled the football. Creek Wood recovered at the Kenwood 29, and needed just 4 plays to punch it in. Devon Higgins was 2-of-2 through the air, and Quinton Poole made the most of his two carries, including an 8 yard touchdown to give Creek Wood a 7-0 lead.

The Knights got a decent return on the ensuing kickoff and started at their own 41, then they showed the Red Hawk faithful what all the hype was about on Branch. The Purdue commitment carried the ball twice–once for 44 yards, then again for a 15 yard score to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:31 to go in the first.

Creek Wood went 3-and-out, so Branch did the heavy lifting and paid off a 60-yard drive with a 2-yard score to make it 14-7 Knights. The Red Hawks answered back with a 73-yard scoring drive of their own, mixing in Poole’s rushing ability with Higgins’ passing. The senior was 2-of-3 on the drive, including a 24 yard score on a screen to Poole, but the point-after was no good and the Red Hawks trailed 14-13 with 1:51 left in the first. Just when the Red Hawks made it seem like the game was going to be nip and tuck the whole way, Branch had a one-play drive to answer the score, racing 69 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-13 Kenwood with 1:23 left in the first quarter. He would finish the opening stanza with 180 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The next Red Hawk drive would stall early in the second quarter, so RaeQuan Blackwell would give Branch a rest on the ensuing Kenwood drive. After quarterback Trent Johnson connected on his first pass of the day, an 18 yard strike to Andre Clifton to convert on third and 8, Branch and Blackwell split the carries, setting up Johnson to roll out of the pocket and race to the endzone for a 24 yard score to make it 28-13 with just 4:36 left before the half.

Creek Wood answered back quickly, hammering away with Poole for 6 straight plays before Higgins found Zeke Lecomte for a 20 yard passing touchdown. Poole went up the middle on the two point try, and with 33 seconds left in the half the Red Hawks cut the lead to 28-21. Johnson would find Francisco Rodriguez for a 14 yard completion on first down and kill the clock, but Kamron Baker picked him off on the next play, and the Red Hawks ran out the first half clock down a score.

Creek Wood got the ball coming out of  the locker room, but Poole lost the football on the fourth play of the drive and Kenwood recovered, making amends for their fumble on the opening kickoff of the first half. The Knights marched down the field on an 11-play, 85-yard drive, with Branch toting the mail 8 of those times. The future Boilermaker capped the drive with a 39 yard touchdown run to make it 35-21 with 4:07 left in the third, and all the momentum was with the visitors again.

Creek Wood tried to answer back, but the drive was off from the first play. Higgins looked to set up an option-pass screen play that had worked much of the night already, but the pass was incomplete behind the receiver. The ball landed harmlessly in bounds, but it was a live ball because an incomplete backwards pass is a fumble. The ball was kicked out of bounds and stayed with the Red Hawks, but the incompletion cost Creek Wood two yards. On a third and 12, Higgins found tight end Garrett Dolinich for 14 yards and a first down, then the Red Hawks ran their old “double pass” play, where Higgins dumps the ball off to a flanking Timmy Randolph, who then passes down the field. Former Creek Wood assistant Bob Beaubien, now an assistant on the Kenwood staff, knew the play was coming from the moment the backup quarterback walked onto the field, but his defender was flagged for a pass interference on the incompletion, extending the drive. Higgins converted a fourth-and-12 with a 21 yard pass to Poole, giving the home team first and goal at the 9, but Poole gained 3 on first down, lost 3 on second down, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Higgins threw an incomplete pass. On fourth and goal from the 9, down 35-21 in the fourth, the Red Hawks had to go for it, but Higgins was sacked for an 11 yard loss that also turned the ball over on downs.

Branch started the Kenwood drive with rushes of 3 yards and 1 yard, but a false start followed by a hold turned third and 6 into third and 21 from the 10. Johnson was sacked, just like Higgins on the last series, but the Kenwood quarterback lost the football and the Red Hawks recovered for a defensive touchdown. The extra point was no good, but Creek Wood had new life down 35-27.

Kenwood found a way to quickly put out that Red Hawk fire, however. They got a good return to the Creek Wood 27, and 4 plays later they found the end zone with Branch on a 22 yard romp. On the first play of the next series, Poole lost the ball, and 300-pound Kenwood senior Andrew Stefko recovered it for the Knights. Creek Wood stopped Branch for no gain on first down, but on the very next play he raced 25 yards for his sixth and final score of the game to make it 49-27 Knights with 6:09 left. The sides would battle back and forth in the waning minutes, but the biggest drama came when Randolph came in to try and spark a comeback in the final minutes and after a couple of completions went down hard with an apparent lower body injury. He would be helped off the field and Blaine Allsbrooks would finish out the game for the Red Hawks. Kenwood was able to grind it out, however, and get a much-needed third win on the season, 49-27, putting the Red Hawks in must-win territory next week at Clarksville Northwest if they want a shot at the postseason.

Creek Wood finished with 261 yards of total offense to Kenwood’s 418. The Red Hawks rushed for 95 yards as a team, but sack numbers kept Higgins in the red while Poole had 101 rushing yards and a score. Daniel Davila added 18 yards on the ground. Poole also had 45 yards and a touchdown on two receptions, as the Red Hawks went for 166 through the air. Randolph was 1-for-4 with a 29 yard pass to Boone, while Higgins built off an efficient first half and finished 8-of-14 for 137 and 2 touchdowns. Lecomte officially had 2 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown, but he was targeted several times including on the pass interference double-pass play, and earned MVP honors for his efforts.

Branch rushed 25 times for 336 yards and 6 touchdowns for the Knights; as a team, they only rushed for 386. Johnson had a 24 yard touchdown run, and was 2-for-4 passing for 32 yards, a spike, and a Baker interception.

Creek Wood heads on the road for the regular season finale Friday night, a 7:00 kickoff  contest at Clarksville Northwest. With a win, the Red Hawks would end the regular season in fourth place and head to the playoffs. The game will be heard in its entirety on 101.5 The One FM and on RFCsports.com.

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