Despite Loss Toppers Future Looks Bright
By Craig Ladd
Special to BSW
For the second year in a row, Hillwood’s football season ended in the first round of the playoffs as the Hilltoppers fell to Maplewood, 47-14.
Maplewood capitalized on three-straight turnovers by the Hilltoppers that produced 21 points, including a pair of interception returns for touchdowns, to seize control of the game.
Hillwood’s touchdowns would come in the second quarter on a 16-yard strike from quarterback Zion Tate to wide receiver Kenneth Redd and in the fourth quarter as the pair connected again, this time from 17 yards.
Tate finished the night with 129 yards passing and Redd had five receptions for 97 yards.
Despite the loss, Hillwood coach Kurt Page was proud of his team.
“Obviously I was not happy with the results of the game, but I am happy with the process in which this team made it to the playoffs. Our guys have made Hillwood football relevant, again.”
After having one victory the two years prior to Page’s arrival, Hillwood has won a total of nine games in his first two years as head coach and earned back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
The playoff success is reflective on the fact that the Toppers are sure to have a fair share of post-season offensive and defensive recognition, possibly All-Region 6-4A and All-City.
Some of the offensive candidates include sophomore QB Hale Page, who passed 1,779 yards and 17 TDs. Senior wideouts Kenneth Redd and Kendrick Gordon, which had 37 catches for 699 yards and seven TDs and 34 receptions for 580 yards and seven TDs, respectively. Senior running back Antonio Walton had a team-leading eight rushing touchdowns and produced 986 all-purpose yards. Hulking junior lineman Chris Clark (6-3, 300) also impressed along the offensive and defensive lines despite missing several games due to injury.
Defensively, linebackers Daniel Bonner and Brandon Lyles enjoyed standout 2016 seasons. Bonner, a junior, was second on the team with 63 tackles and five tackles for loss. Lyles, a senior paced the Hilltoppers in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks with 77, 16 and three, respectively.
Senior kicker Liam Dougherty should also be in the running for post-season recognition after converting 33 of his 35 extra points and connecting on both of his field goals from 35 and 44 yards.
The future looks bright for Hillwood as the sub-varsity team finished with a 5-1 record and three freshman started at various times this season in wide receivers James Galloway and TJ Spain and offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.
A total of 63 percent of the players return from this year as the 2017 team looks to make school history by earning a spot in the playoffs for three straight years.
“We are now more dedicated than ever to make history and make the playoffs for a third-straight year,” said Page.
The coach added, “We had a winning record at home this season, which we will use as a spring board for next season.”