Hillcrest Outlasts McGill-Toolen to Advance to 2nd Round
With their 31-21 victory over the McGill-Toolen Yellow Jackets (7-3, 5-2) Friday night, the Hillcrest Patriots (9-2, 5-1) have secured a second-round matchup at No. 1 Opelika in the second round.
Leading the way for the Patriots’ offense was senior running back Tyler Smith. With Smith’s speed, Hillcrest scored four total touchdowns. While Smith accounted for two touchdowns of his own, senior running back Marcus Wilkins and sophomore quarterback Ethan Crawford notched singular rushing touchdowns each. Senior kicker Seth Martin also chipped in a 22-yard second-quarter field goal. Overall, the Patriots gained 341 total yards and 15 first downs.
While Hillcrest’s offense is usually known for airing the ball out and a predominantly pass-heavy attack, the Patriots changed it up, rushing 45 times throughout the game. In fact, Crawford only passed 15 times, completing five, for 89 yards with one interception.
Hillcrest head coach Sam Adams acknowledged that in the Alabama state playoffs, a football team needs to know how to run the ball well.
“Our offensive line played pretty well. We ran the ball efficiently, and they did a good job of protecting the passer. We really didn’t pass it, and that is kind of what you have to do to win games in November.”
Smith rushed for 93 yards, while Wilkins rushed for 75 yards. Combined with Crawford’s 84 yards, the Pats’ rushing attack gained 252 yards.
Not to be overshadowed, however; the Patriots’ defense held the Yellow Jackets to only 14 offensive points and 308 yards.
Besides a fourth-quarter potential Yellow Jacket comeback that included a short touchdown pass by McGill-Toolen senior quarterback Spencer Arceneaux and a punt returned for a touchdown, Hillcrest’s defense stood firm.
In addition to the special teams’ score and the Arceneaux touchdown pass, McGill-Toolen only scored once more- a second-quarter touchdown rush by junior running back Braylon McReynolds. McReynolds led the Yellow Jackets with 196 yards on 31 carries.
As for passing, Arceneaux went 8-for-17 with 90 yards.
With this loss, McGill-Toolen has been knocked out of playoff contention for 2020. While this first season of being in 6A might not be as successful as their time in 7A, the Yellow Jackets still managed to win five region games in an area that includes 6A powerhouses Spanish Fort and Saraland.
Hillcrest, on the other hand, will be traveling to Opelika next week to take on the 8-2 Bulldogs. Opelika won Friday night in a 51-28 beatdown over Wetumpka, a school Hillcrest beat in Week 4.