Photo: Marty Allison/DicksonSportsMedia
JACKSON, TN — The Creek Wood Red Hawks’ 2018 football season came to an end Friday night in West Tennessee, falling to the Jackson South Side Hawks, 16-14 in a game marred by turnovers and a muddy playing surface in the first round of the TSSAA 4A State Playoffs.
In fact, the conditions were so bad, the Red Hawks’ white jerseys were turned completely brown with mud at the final whistle.
“There ought be some type of stipulations as to what field conditions need to be to play the game, because that severely impacted the football game,” said Creek Wood head coach Houston Thiel, “Everything we did it impacted.
“We couldn’t do anything but run straight ahead. We couldn’t run laterally, it wiped out any type of game that you had in the air.”
The turnovers were the biggest factor, putting Creek Wood behind in the first half and also helping the Red Hawks make it a game in the second.
Creek Wood fumbled deep in its own territory on the first three possessions of the game, spotting the Hawks a 10-0 halftime lead. The defense forced South Side into a 27-yard field goal from Matthew Steen after the first fumble, and a 6-yard touchdown run from Frazier Ellison made it 10-0 before the end of the 1st quarter, but the Hawks were unable to score again in the first half despite 4 turnovers and zero net yards from the Creek Wood offense.
“Field possession was huge part of the game,” said Thiel, “those turnovers hurt but if we turn it over at the 50 it’s a little different. When we turn it over inside the 10 it makes it easy on them.”
The conditions of the field clearly had an impact on every Creek Wood turnover, with a mud-covered ball.
“Both teams played it in and that’s what people say, and that’s fair, we just didn’t do a good enough job of protecting the football, and it got us beat” said Thiel.
The Red Hawks turned it over again on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, as Devin Bowers picked off Elijah Donaldson and returned it to the Creek Wood 4-yard line, and senior Austin Clark ran it in on the next play to make it a 16-0 game with the missed extra point, and 11:25 left in the third quarter.
Suddenly, the Creek Wood offense came alive behind the play of junior running back Danny Stansberry, breaking a 60-yard run to get down to the Jackson 17-yard line. A couple of plays later, Stansberry caught a pass from Donaldson and ran it 23-yards into the end zone, and converted the 2-point conversion to make it a 16-8 football game with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
“He’s a game changer,” said Thiel, “if you give him any type of crease he can make a play, and he showed that again tonight. Honestly, I don’t know how they stood up right. We would have an injured guy, and I would walk across the field and it took everything I had to stay on my feet, so as much as getting traction and moving around.
“I don’t know how our kids did it, Danny is a really good football player.”
The Creek Wood comeback bid continued with another defensive stop, and an ensuing 32-yard touchdown run by Stansberry to make it 16-14 with 6:19 left in the game. Stansberry was the Manhattan Trophies Player of the Game, finishing with 97 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, as well as a 23-yard touchdown reception, and a fumble recovery.
When asked what clicked in the second half, Stansberry’s answer was simple.
“Definitely more power,” he said, “you could not use speed, we had to use all power.
“I think at the end of the second quarter we were still trying to figure out what to do, but we were still in the game. We all thought we were.”
Creek Wood’s next 2-point try was stuffed, and the Red Hawks needed more defensive stops to have a chance. That is exactly what happened, as the turnovers started going their way when Will Secker intercepted South Side quarterback Tyler Carver twice in the second half to give them a chance. Both teams combined for 9 total turnovers, with Creek Wood giving it back to the Hawks 6 times, and South Side returning the favor 3 times.
“I don’t think we ever lost our composition, I feel like we were in the ball game the whole time,” said Thiel, “We had a lot of confidence in them (defense), and you saw that at the end of the game when we got 2 minutes left and we decide to punt the football.
“In mind we wanted our defense to be out on the field. I feel like, you know, your defense was almost as likely to score as your offense was.”
The decision to punt it late paid off, and Creek Wood got the ball back on the South Side 40-yard line with 2 minutes remaining and no timeouts. Sam Askins took a toss sweep around the edge for a first down, but the South Side defense stepped up, and Elijah Donaldson was sacked on 4th and 18 to spell the end for Creek Wood. The final score on a soggy, muddy night in Jackson was 16-14.
“You know, there’s nothing to say there thats going to make them feel any better, the only thing that you can kind of tell them is you got to have peace in the game you played,” said Thiel about his seniors, who played their final game in a Creek Wood jersey on Friday.
“You don’t want to have any regrets, and I don’t think any of our kids have regrets. I think they played really hard.
“You can’t doubt their heart tonight.”
The Red Hawks’ 2018 season comes to an end with a 7-4 record, while South Side improved to 10-1, and will face Springfield in the second round next Friday.