Hillwood Earns First Victory of Season
By Craig Ladd
If you ask most football coaches what the keys are to winning football games, most will immediately rattle off, “Win the turnover battle.”
In Hillwood’s opening game loss to Columbia, the Hilltoppers committed four turnovers (three of those inside the 10-yard line) and created just one.
In Friday night’s 15-12 win at Portland, the offense committed only one turnover (an interception) and the defense created five takeaways (four fumbles and an interception).
Another ingredient for winning football is to minimize the number of penalties. Last week at Columbia, the Toppers were flagged for 11 infractions. This week at Portland, Hillwood had only five penalties.
“One of my former coaches taught me a long, long time ago that more games are lost than won. We really shot ourselves in the foot at Columbia with all the turnovers, especially those inside the 10,” said Hillwood coach Kurt Page. “We really stressed cleaning things up during practice and it paid off against Portland.”
The defense regrouped after allowing 40 points to Columbia surrendering just 12 points, holding the Panthers scoreless in the second half.
The Portland running game, which was prevalent in the first half, was stymied in the second half led by a dominating effort from senior linebacker Daniel Bonner.
The 2016 All-Region pick was seemingly in on every stop during the second half, recording 17 tackles, three of those for loss and a fumble recovery.
“Daniel had an incredible game. He was so active, especially in the second half,” said Page.
Bonner had plenty of help from his teammates. Junior outside linebacker Jaylon Haddock displayed his athleticism tallying eight tackles.
Senior transfer Jerome TyVay Wine was next in line with five tackles to go along with a caused fumble and a fumble recovery.
Haddock’s classmate cornerback Eric Kinnard had a nice all-around defensive game, registering four tackles, causing a fumble and a pass defensed.
Sophomore linebacker Jason Legrand had a huge interception to thwart a late 4th-quarter drive by Portland, which enabled Hillwood to run out the clock.
“Our defense played really well, especially in the second half. We made timely plays all night. Obviously the turnovers we created were a major factor in our win,” said Page.
The offense struggled in the first half with consistency as quarterback Hale Page completed just three of his first 13 passes and finished just five of 16 with an interception at the intermission.
The second half was a stark contrast from the first for the junior as he connected on 7-of-12 passes for 111 yards.
Page reeled off six straight completions during one stretch, which included the go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass to Kinnard and subsequent 2-point conversion on a pass to Kinnard.
Page finished the night with 202 yards passing finding five different receivers for his 12 completions.
Leading the pass catchers was junior Zion Tate who had three receptions for 81 yards, all coming in the second half.
Sophomores TJ Spain and James Galloway enjoyed their most productive game as Hilltoppers with three catches for 41 yards and two snags for 40 yards, respectively.
Junior Kyle Carder struggled to find running room most of the night and had just 3 rushing yards in the first half, but rushed for 48 yards in the second half, including 19-yard run to close out the game, dashing any hopes by the Panthers for a final drive.
Next up for Hillwood is hosting Region 6, 5A foe Hunters Lane in the home opener.
“It’s a region game, so it’s very important. Hunters Lane is improving and defensively was very stingy last week against Sycamore. We have a lot of respect for those guys,” said Page.
The game will be played on Thursday night with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m.