The Creek Wood Red Hawks rolled into a Week 8 matchup against Loretto with everything on their side. The 0-7 Mustangs were making a 2 hour trip from near the Alabama line, heading to a team playing its 6th home game of the season. The Red Hawks were on a 2-game win streak, were looking to beat their second winless team of the season, and skate into the bye week with a 0.500 win percentage.
Loretto didn’t get the memo, and Creek Wood had a tougher challenge that one might expect. Despite setting up a Mustang touchdown with a muffed punt in the third and allowing a safety that cut the lead to 10 points early in the fourth, Creek Wood was able to do enough to keep Loretto at a distance and the Red Hawks salted away a win 27-16 on Friday night in Charlotte.
Loretto got the ball first, and after getting one first down the drive went backwards. Quarterback Christian Austill got sacked twice, so Logan Purcell had to punt. The punt may have been blocked, but it rocketed high into the air nearly straight up. Creek Wood recovered at the Loretto 34, and despite a sack needed just 4 plays to find the endzone. Devon Higgins found Tanner Corlew for a 22 yard touchdown strike, but the Luke Ptak extra point hit the right upright. Creek Wood led 6-0 with just over 7 minutes to go in the first, however, and the Red Hawk defense headed back onto the field.
Loretto went 3-and-out again, and Purcell sent another punt on an awkward trajectory. Creek Wood took over at the Mustang 44, but on the second play of the drive Purcell made amends by picking off a Higgins pass. Loretto took over at the 43 and converted a first down, but Austill took another sack, and on 4th and 16 from near midfield Austill was picked off by Brent Harris. The Red Hawks took over at the 50, and marched down the field aided by a defensive pass interference call. Daniel Davila capped the drive with a 9 yard score, and with the Ptak point-after the Red Hawks grew the lead to 13-0.
Loretto again went 3-and-out, but Purcell got off a great punt to pin the Red Hawks back to the 2 yard line. Undaunted, Quinton Poole raced 98 yards down the field in one play for the score. The point after was no good, but Creek Wood led 19-0 with 7:37 left in the first half. On its next drive, Loretto got a first down on a rush from Austill before the drive stalled, but the sides ultimately traded punts. On the next Mustang drive, Austill was again picked off, this time by Kamron Baker. The Red Hawks picked up a first down on a 9 yard pass from Higgins to Zeke Lecomte and two Davila rushes, then Higgins went deep to tight end Garrett Dolinich for a score. However, a penalty took points off the board and started a chain reaction. Despite a 12 yard completion to Corlew, the Red Hawks went backwards with 4 penalties on the drive. Creek Wood went from a 2nd and 3 to a 4th and 34, and a Dolinich punt pinned the Mustangs back at the 24. They ran one play, a 15-yard hook and lateral, but the clock ran out on the first half. The Red Hawks left 9 points on the field, but still led 19-0 at the break.
Creek Wood got the ball to start the third, but Loretto forced the punt. The Red Hawk defense forced a 3-and-out, but the ensuing punt was muffed by Sam Askins and recovered by Loretto at the Creek Wood 6. A false start pushed the Mustangs back to the 11, and Askins broke up a second down pass play before Preston Berryhill picked up 3 yards on the ground to set up 4th and goal from the 8. Down by 3 scores, the Mustangs went for it, and Austill found Avery Rose for an 8 yard passing score to put Loretto on the board. The point-after was good, and the Red Hawk lead was trimmed to 19-7 with 5:43 left in the third.
Both sides struggled with the shotgun snap all night, but the issues bit Creek Wood harder in the second half. A third down snap on the next series was over Higgins’s head for a sack, forcing a punt, and the Mustangs were set up at the 50. An 18 yard run by Joseph Smith and a 6 yard completion to Bryce Tankersley aided by a personal foul facemask penalty got Loretto down to the 7, but back to back holding penalties and an incompletion led to a second and goal play from the 25. A 14 yard completion to Purcell made it 3rd down from the 11, but Loretto rushed on third and fourth down before the Creek Wood defense stopped Austill at the one and the ball went over on downs. The Red Hawks were pinned back at the goal line, and on first down Poole was pinned back in the endzone for a safety. With just under 11 minutes left in the game, the Creek Wood Red Hawk lead was trimmed to 19-9.
The Creek Wood defense was fired up after the free kick, as Hayden Boone sacked Austill on first down, and the Mustangs didn’t gain a yard on the 3-and-out drive. After the punt, the Red Hawks took over at their own 38. Dickens connected with Lecomte for an 8 yard strike and later a 44 yard hookup that got the Red Hawks down to the 4. Two plays and two penalties later, Poole rushed for a two yard score with 6:32 left in the contest. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed up the extra point try, and much like the play that gave Creek Wood its first lead against Hillwood, the Red Hawks opted to go for two. Backup quarterback Timmy Randolph kept it on the ground, and punched in the try, growing the lead to 27-9.
Loretto answered back on the next possession, as Austill found Skye McNatt for 15 yards and Purcell for 26 on a 7 play, 57 yard drive. Berryhill rushed for a 3 yard score and kicked the extra point to make it 27-16 with 3:27 left. Creek Wood got the ball back after the kickoff, content to run the clock. Randolph was sacked on the opening play, but on second down he found Lecomte for 7 yards. After a holding call, Kobe Mayberry hammered ahead for 8 yards to keep the clock running, and the Red Hawks took a delay of game penalty on 4th down with 40 seconds left, then punted the ball away. Loretto got the ball ahead to their own 44, but got no further before the clock ran out, and Creek Wood escaped with the win.
The Red Hawks outgained the visitors in total yardage 290 to 229, in rushing 159 to 148, and in passing 138 to 82. Higgins was 9-of-13 passing for 131 yards and a touchdown. Lecomte had 4 catches for 68 yards, including a catch from Randolph. Corlew had 4 catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. Austill was 6 of 20 passing for 82 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions. Purcell led the way with 3 catches for 53 yards. Poole rushed for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns and had a single catch for 18 yards; he earned the MVP award in the win, which improved the Red Hawks to 4-4. Davila also added 31 yards on the ground. The Mustangs were led in rushing by Smith with 60 yards, while Austill rushed for 28 yards and Berryhill carried for 24 yards and a score. Rose had one carry for 27 yards as well. Creek Wood is off this week, before getting back to Region play for the last two weeks of the season.