The Creek Wood Red Hawks knew they would have their hands full against Clarksville Northwest on Friday night. The resurgent Vikings were enjoying one of the best stretches of football success they had seen in quite some time, were in second place in Region 6-4A, and were playing at home on Senior Night. The Red Hawks would need a solid effort to knock off the Green and Gold, plus some help from Hillwood beating Montgomery Central, to slip into the postseason.
While the Northwest offense was balanced and hard to handle, the defense frustrated the Red Hawks throughout the night, and the Indians led Hillwood by a touchdown at the half, the hardest thing Creek Wood had to overcome was itself. Special teams proved problematic for the visitors, as they left a full 7 points on the field in failed point-after tries and allowed two punt returns for touchdowns that the Vikings had called back on penalties, as Northwest held on for a 33-24 win and ended the hopes of a postseason run for the Red Hawks.
Northwest won the toss and elected to defer their decision to the second half. After a quick Creek Wood 3-and-out, a bad snap to punter Garrett Dolinich led to a huge loss, and the Vikings were set up 21 yards from the end zone. After picking up a first down, the home side threw the football on three of four downs, with the third straight incompletion turning the ball over on downs at the 14. The Red Hawks then went to work on the ground, hammering away with Quinton Poole and a splash of Daniel Davila on a 14 play, 86-yard scoring drive. Devon Higgins was 3-of-3 passing on the drive to 3 different receivers, and capped the drive with a 16 yard touchdown pass to Brent Harris. The extra point kick from Luke Ptak was no good, but Creek Wood led 6-0 with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings got themselves in order on the ensuing drive, as the wishbone running attack helped the passing look from Hunter Silverstrim, and Northwest only needed seven plays to drive 70 yards for the score. Silverstrim was 2-of-2 on the drive including a 34 yard touchdown pass to the talented Shatar McClay. The point-after was good, and Northwest led 7-6 with 10:06 left in the half. It was a lead they would never give up.
A quick three-and-out from Creek Wood would lead to some drama, as McClay ran the punt back for a touchdown. A block in the back against Northwest and a false start on the Red Hawks would offset and negate the score, and Harris would get a key stop on the return at the CW 30 yardline instead. The Vikings would not be denied, however, as a 9-play, 70-yard drive would end in another six, as Silverstrim hit Dorian Bell for a 28 yard score and a 14-6 lead with 3:37 left before halftime.
Creek Wood answered back with perhaps its best drive of the day, a 12-play, 65-yard drive in just over 3 minutes. Poole had rushes of 11 and 20 yards on the drive, while Higgins found Zeke Lecomte for 16 yards through the air. A defensive pass interference helped the Red Hawks convert on third-and-six, and after the 20 yard run from Poole made it first-and-goal from the 4, the drive went backwards. A penalty call on third-and-goal from the 7 gave Creek Wood first-and-goal inside the 1, and Higgins found Hayden Boone (wearing number 90 instead of his usual 15) for a 1 yard touchdown to make it 14-12 with 19.8 seconds left before the half. Poole was stopped short of the game-tying 2-point conversion, but Creek Wood kept the momentum as Zach Harris picked off Silverstrim on the Vikings’ next offensive play, and the Red Hawks were able to run out the half down 2 points.
Both sides opened the second half like the first, as Northwest picked up a first down, stalled, and punted; then Creek Wood did likewise, giving up a second punt return touchdown to McClay that was again called back on a block in the back. The Vikings showed off their versatile wishbone attack on the resulting drive, however; three different backs carried the ball one play each–Eli Johnson, Darius Daniels, and finally LaQualin Nickleson, who finished the quick drive with a 28 yard touchdown to make it 21-12 with 6:07 left in the third. Not to be outdone, Poole made it a one-play drive for the Red Hawks on his next chance, racing 58 yards for a score. Higgins’ pass on the two-point try was no good, but Creek Wood had trimmed the lead back to 21-18.
The “death by a thousand papercuts” approach of the running back by committee took aim at both teams on the very next play from scrimmage for Northwest. The Vikings flipped the field on Creek Wood with a big running play, but a fumble gave the ball back to Creek Wood, down just a field goal. Still, Creek Wood went 4-and-out, going for it in the third from their own 29 and giving the Vikings the ball back on an incomplete pass. A pass interference call on third down gave Northwest a first-and-ten at the 12, and after a 4 yard carry from Deion Warren and a 6 yard rush from Daniels to get the first down, Silverstrim handed the ball off to Ralph Satterthwaite who rumbled in for the 2 yard score. The extra point was missed, but Northwest again extended the lead, this time to 27-18 with 1:18 left in the third.
A roughing the passer call helped extend Creek Wood’s next drive, but only by one play; Higgins would get picked off, and set up Northwest at their own 17 with 45 seconds left in the frame. Northwest would then prove methodical, chewing up 8 minutes of clock on a 13-play, 83-yard drive to essentially put the game away. Silverstrim found McClay for a 10 yard completion to convert a second-and-long, Johnson would have an 11 yard carry, Silverstrim would scramble for 12 yards, and a pass interference between the two big running plays would further help the Viking cause. In the end, Silverstrim would find LaJavier Gamble for a 2 yard touchdown, and despite the blocked point-after, Northwest would lead 33-18 with 5:46 left in regulation.
Creek Wood ran the two-minute drill well on the ensuing drive as Northwest began to sub. Higgins found Braxton Horner for 9 yards, Boone for 24, and Lecomte for 33 and a touchdown. Higgins threw a dart on the two-point conversion, but the pass was broken up without a penalty flag thrown, and it was on Ptak and the hands team to get the ball back down 33-24. The onside kick was struck well and popped up in the air, but it came down towards Northwest and was recovered cleanly.
With 4:50 left in regulation, the reserves followed the lead of backup quarterback Gabe Siebert and ran clock–but not without a number of penalties and struggles. They picked up two first downs and ultimately had to punt. Higgins found Lecomte for 15 yards on first down, then after a false start found Brent Harris for 28 yards with under 10 seconds left. Desmond Ruffin took all of the air out of Creek Wood’s comeback hopes, however, capping a stellar defensive game with an interception on the next play.
Northwest was called for a false start on the kneel-down, further underscoring the struggles both sides felt in the game, but Silverstrim was able to kneel down and get the win, 33-24, giving Northwest a winning season and a home playoff game next week.
The stats bear out an interesting contest, as Northwest outgained the Red Hawks barely, approximately 349-328. The fresh legs in the Viking backfield proved a huge asset, as they outgained Creek Wood on the ground 246 to 132, as CWHS lost yardage due to constant pressure on Higgins. Poole accounted for 137, a touchdown, and no fumbles, however, while Northwest scored twice on the ground and coughed it up once. Silverstrim was 6 for 13 passing for 103 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a pick; Higgins was 13 of 25 for 196 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Higgins found 6 receivers on the day, including MVP Lecomte who had a team-high 5 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. Poole had 2 catches for 22 yards, bringing his all-purpose yardage total to 159 on the day.
Creek Wood finishes the year 4-6, 1-4 in what is likely the last season for Region 6-4A, as every team but Creek Wood and Montgomery Central is changing classifications. Central actually lost to Hillwood 24-21 after a second half rally by the Hilltoppers, meaning that the Red Hawks could have made the playoffs with a win. Instead, 3-7 Kenwood gets the last playoff spot and will travel to 9-1 Pearl Cohn. Hillwood (4-6) gets the third spot and travels to 7-3 Maplewood. Northwest finishes 6-4 and as the second place team in the Region, hosting 8-2 Macon County. And Region Champion Lipscomb Academy (7-2) hosts a 5-5 Springfield squad on Friday night in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. Ridgeway, Lexington, Memphis East, and Haywood County are among the other top seeds on the same side of the bracket, as teams look to march on to Cookeville.
For Creek Wood, the season draws to a disappointing close, but the seniors are able to boast a win over Dickson County, a 3-game win streak after a 1-4 start, and an offense that averaged 29.5 points per game. While the schedule and region/district alignment for next season isn’t known yet, the Red Hawks can return an experienced core, including gunslinging QB Timmy Randolph, speedy RB Daniel Davila, do-it-all TE/DL/P Garrett Dolinich, heady kicker Luke Ptak, bulldozing RB Kobe Mayberry, and too many defensive players and linemen to name. In short, the future looks bright for the Red Hawks, even with a lot of pieces set to be moving around in the offseason.