By Craig Ladd
The Hillwood football team was hoping to open the season with a victory, but similar to the previous six openers, the Hilltoppers found themselves extending the streak in falling to Columbia, 40-0.
The game started on a promising note as Hillwood defensive tackle Cameron Porter recovered a fumble at the Lions 11-yard line on a botched exchange between Columbia quarterback Darien Davis and wingback Kenyonte Davis.
Unfortunately on the Toppers first play after the turnover, wingback Eric Kinnard fumbled, giving the ball back to Columbia.
“Our defense did an outstanding job of recovering the fumble to set up the offense with a short field. For us to turn it back over to them on the next play was disheartening”, said coach Kurt Page.
“Momentum is a key competitive ingredient in every sport and we didn’t seize it when the opportunity presented itself,” Coach Page added.
The Lions went into halftime with a 14-0 lead as QB Darien Davis tossed touchdown passes of nine and one yards to wideouts Montana Cairns and Dontavious Brown, respectively.
It could have been worse if not for a fourth down stop as linebacker Erie Lawrence tackled Kenyonte Davis short of first down at the Toppers’ 5-yard line towards the end of the half.
“Our defense did a great job of holding them on downs inside the 10-yard line toward the end of the half. We go into halftime still very much in the game down just 14-0,” said Page.
But the start of the second half foreshadowed the initial play of the first half as slot receiver Zion Tate and quarterback Hale Page mishandled the handoff on a reverse and the Lions recovered, scoring on the next play. From there Columbia would rip off three more touchdowns as part of a 26-point outburst in the third quarter that would end the scoring for the game.
The Hilltoppers managed only 158 yards total offense as Hale Page was 8 of 17 through the air for 97 yards and backup Zion Tate completed six of his 15 passes for 63 yards and an interception. Kyle Carder hauled in four passes for 44 yards followed by Eric Kinnard with three receptions for 36 yards and Trevon Wade with a pair of catches for 48 yards.
The ground game was smothered by an aggressive Lions defense and totaled minus-2 yards on 24 carriers. Carder led the way with 19 yards on six carriers.
Carder topped the defensive stats for the Hilltoppers with six tackles followed by cornerback Ethan Green with three tackles, an interception and a pass defensed. Linebacker Daniel Bonner was also active registering four tackles and a pass defensed.
Turnovers and penalties proved to be the Hilltoppers’ demise with five fumbles (4 lost), an interception and 11 infractions for 73 yards.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to learn from our mistakes and grow this week on the practice field. We also need to work on securing the football better. Committing five turnovers is not a winning formula,” said Page. “With nine first-time starters offensively, we are a work in progress. We will grow from these experiences.”
Hillwood will look to rebound on Friday night as they travel to Portland to face the Panthers. Kickoff for the non-conference game will be 7:00 p.m. The Hilltoppers season home opener will be Thursday, Aug. 31 against region foe Hunters Lane.
Hillwood Drops Opener on the Road