By Craig Ladd
Special to BSW
When speaking to a football coach concerning the keys to winning a game, more times than not turnovers are mentioned. Winning the turnover battle … the defense causing fumbles and making interceptions and the offense not fumbling and throwing interceptions.
Unfortunately for Hillwood, the latter rang true. The Hilltoppers lost two fumbles and threw a pair of interceptions and ultimately it was a fumble return for a touchdown that propelled Clarksville Northwest to a 28-21 win over Hillwood.
With the scored tied at 21 each, Northwest defensive back Milik Course hit Hillwood sophomore quarterback Hale Page from the blind side causing a fumble and linebacker Jaylen Jackson scooped up the loose ball and raced 31 yards for a touchdown with 3:37 left in the game.
The Hilltoppers would drive the ball to the Northwest 42-yard line before turning the ball over on downs, which allowed the Vikings to run out the clock and win the game.
“Ball security should always be a priority for our offense. We gifted four turnovers,” said Hillwood coach Kurt Page.
The Hilltoppers registered the first points of the night with 8:08 left in the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from Page to senior Kendrick Gordon. The Vikings answered less than four minutes later as running back Desmond Daniels would find the end zone from four yards. Northwest would take the lead with 6:33 remaining in the first half as Shatar McClay took a Liam Dougherty punt back 80 yards for a touchdown.
Less than three minutes later, Page would find senior Kenneth Redd on a 22-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 14. Vikings quarterback Hunter Silverstrim capped off the first half scoring with an 11-yard TD run and put Northwest in front, 21-14 at the half.
After a first half in which both offenses combined for 412 yards, the defenses ruled the second half as neither team managed 100 yards of offense.
Senior running back Antonio Walton would record the Hilltoppers lone points of the second half with a third quarter touchdown run of 26-yards to tie the game at 21, which would precede Jackson’s fumble return for the winning score.
Minus the crippling turnovers, one of which occurred at the Northwest 5-yard line in the fourth quarter with the game tied, the Hillwood offense produced 331 yards total offense — 97 rushing and 234 passing.
Walton followed up his 107-yard rushing effort against Glencliff with 90 yards and a TD.
Hale Page passed for 234 yards, his third-straight game with over 200 yards passing. Page completed 19-of-44 passes with a pair of TDs.
Redd led the Hilltoppers in receptions with five for 66 yards, followed by Gordon with five catches for 59 yards and senior Monterrion McKissack with two receptions for 73 yards.
After allowing 174 yards and 21 points in the first half, the Hillwood defense used a couple of fourth down stops to shutout the Vikings in the second half and limit them to just 84 yards total offense.
“We did not tackle well in the first half, so it was very encouraging to see us tackle better as a group and shut them out in the second half,” said Page, who is in his second year as Hillwood head coach.
Gordon and fellow seniors in linebacker Brandon Lyle and defensive back Thaddeus Clay, along with a pair of juniors in linebacker Anthony Bonner and defensive lineman Cameron Porter all recorded five tackles. Sophomore defensive back Eric Kinnard also entered the fray with five stops.
Junior Cymitrius Addison had an active night registering a pair of tackles for loss, a forced fumble and three tackles.
The loss drops Hillwood to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Region 6-4A. The Toppers will step out of region on Friday night to travel to Whites Creek to take on the Cobras.
“We are disappointed to leave Clarksville with a region loss, but it’s important that we get back to our 629 brand at Whites Creek.” said Page.
Hillwood Turnovers Leads to Loss