Hillcrest Wins Wild Rivalry Game, Takes Seventh Straight Over County
Two missed extra points, a fumbled snap, a big-man touchdown, two key players cramping, a near pick-six and a power outage marked a memorable rivalry game between Hillcrest and Tuscaloosa County on Friday night.
With five seconds remaining, Hillcrest senior running back Tyler Smith dove over the goal line to give the Patriots the decisive score. Their 27-20 victory was their seventh-straight over Tuscaloosa County.
“It was a game that both teams had a chance to win, and both teams also did things to lose the game,” Adams said with a laugh. “… I’m not gonna say it was really all that well-played of a football game. It was definitely a roller-coaster ride.”
Hillcrest broke a 14-14 tie when junior corner Luke Williams returned an interception to the County 4-yard line, and senior defensive lineman Tramaine Chism powered through the pile for a touchdown two plays later.
The sideline erupted for Chism, who was not on the team before this year.
The Patriots’ extra point missed low, though, and the lead was six points instead of the full seven. They forced back-to-back three-and-outs and appeared to have the game in hand, but with less than two minutes remaining, they snapped the ball over the punter’s head and left the Wildcats just 29 yards from a potential go-ahead score.
Sophomore quarterback Brax Garrison tossed up a go route to senior wide receiver Cedric Williams, who caught the ball and snuck in the front-right corner of the end zone to tie the game at 20-20 with 1:17 left.
But their extra point also missed low and left, a carbon copy of Hillcrest’s miss, and the game stayed deadlocked at 20.
Hillcrest took over at County’s 43-yard line with just over a minute left, but after passes of 19 and 26 yards, they were already in field goal range. After a throwaway when the receiver was covered in the end zone – “a great job by the quarterback,” Adams said – Smith salted the game away with a run up the middle.
The Hillcrest crowd exploded, and then, as the celebration began to die down, the stadium lights went out, sending the student section into an even bigger frenzy.
Crawford, despite briefly leaving the game with cramps and having the ball slip out of his hands twice in the first quarter, finished the game 12 of 20 for 119 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball seven times for 43 yards, converting four first downs.
“I learned absolutely nothing about him,” Adams said of his young quarterback. “Because I knew no matter what happens early in the game, he’s got the toughness to come back. And that’s why he’s one of the best ones in the state, and I fully believe that.”
On the opposite sideline, County star running back Damien Taylor had an unusually quiet day, recording 24 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown. He also battled cramps during the game, briefly leaving the game twice.
“Our field position was so good at times,” County coach Jay Todd said. “We needed to be able to run the ball and get it in the end zone instead of settling for field goals.”
Garrison, County’s sophomore quarterback, had been sharing snaps with senior Connor White but played the full game on Friday night. He was 11 of 31 for 187 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Before his game-tying throw to Williams, he had completed one of his prior 14 passes.
“We thought it was gonna be a low-scoring game. We knew we probably weren’t gonna be able to light it up on the scoreboard,” Todd said. “We just didn’t win the line of scrimmage enough.”
Next week Hillcrest (2-0) opens region play at home against Brookwood (0-2). Tuscaloosa County (1-1) plays at defending Class 7A state champion Thompson (1-0).
“These kind of games will reveal a lot: who you are as a person, who you are as a competitor,” Todd said. “It would be real easy to come apart at the seams here… but I trust the character of these guys.”