Hillwood Faces Tough Foe on Opening Day
By Craig Ladd
Hillwood kicks off the 2017 season Friday night at Columbia Central seeking to erase a six-game losing streak in openers.
The Hilltoppers last victory to begin a season was in 2010 when they upset Nashville Christian, 7-6.
Coach Kurt Page, 0-2 in opening games at Hillwood, will be looking to end the winless streak, but he knows that it will take a team effort to knock off the Lions.
“It’s a new season. Both teams are 0-0. They were winless last year, so they are hungry for a victory. We have many new players and starters, so it’s going to be a good growing experience for our team to come into a hostile environment,” said Page.
The Toppers will be leaning heavily on quarterback Hale Page to be a steading hand for the youngsters. The junior passed for 1,779 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. The son of the coach, who has added two inches in height and 15 pounds of weight, should improve on his touchdown efficiency and turnovers with a year under his belt.
Senior Cymitrius Addison and juniors Avery Bass, Jaylon Haddock and Eric Kinnard will all see action in the backfield. The quartet will look to improve on a running game, which averaged just 85 yards per game last season.
“We need to establish our running game for more offensive balance this season,” said Page. “I like our stable of backs. They all bring something different to the table.”
The Hillwood defense must contend with talented Columbia Central quarterback Darien Davis. The junior has tremendous speed and quickness and is a serious weapon in the Lions run game.
“Columbia is very athletic. We will need to play sound, fundamental and disciplined defense on Friday night,” said Page. “Our linebackers are going to be very important in stopping the quarterback runs. Erie Lawrence and Daniel Bonner in the middle and Kyle Carder and Jerome Wine on the outside need to play well.”
The formula for winning for Page is simple, “take care of the football and make more plays than they do.”
Kickoff for the game at Columbia Central will be 7:00 p.m. After a trip to Portland for the second game of the season, the Hilltoppers host region foe Hunters Lane in the home opener on Thursday, Aug. 31.