Creekside 27, Westlake 20

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

The Seminoles prevailed in The Battle for the Soul of South Fulton

Creekside 27, Westlake 20

In the 1990s, the Battle of Five Forks Trickum – Brookwood vs. Parkview – was the marque regular season game of the year.

It featured packed stadiums, loud bands and heavyweight slugfests between title-contending programs with big-time players who have competed with and against each other since they were in pre-K.

The pendulum has officially shifted south. Call it the Battle for the Soul of South Fulton: Creekside vs. Westlake.

Friday night in The Swamp at Creekside, senior quarterback Nyqua Lett made two big plays in the fourth quarter and the Seminole defense held firm late as Creekside (2-0), ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, defended its home turf with a 27-20 win over the Lions (2-1), No. 3 in Class 6A.

The game featured two of the most talent-laden teams in Georgia, with literally millions of dollars in college scholarship money on both sidelines. The contest lived up to the pre-game hype. In the end, Lett was one of the key difference makers.

“I have one of the best quarterbacks in the state,” Creekside head coach Maurice Dixon said of his senior signal caller. And when it counted, he played like it.

Midway through the fourth quarter, with Creekside trailing 13-12, the Seminole defense set up the offense with a turnover in Westlake territory. Junior quarterback RJ Johnson was stripped as he pulled the ball on a zone read, and Vincent Hill recovered for Creekside at Westlake’s 34-yard line.

Lett picked up 20 yards on the next play on a quarterback throw-back from Kamauri Davis. Two plays later, Lett sprinted around the left side of the line untouched for a 15-yard touchdown. The play was designed to be a power run to the right, Dixon said.

“He’s just a smart, heady football player,” Dixon said. “That’s why I trust him so much to always make the right decision.”

But Westlake swung back, taking advantage of Creekside’s aggressive defense, which dialed up A-gap and B-gap blitzes all night. Junior running back Jai’den Thomas darted up the middle into the teeth of one of those blitzes and scampered 58 yards to the Creekside 8-yard line. After an illegal substitution penalty on the Seminoles, Johnson powered in over the right side to tie the score at 20-20 with 2:28 left in regulation.

William Edwards III and the Seminole kickoff return unit set the stage for Lett’s heroics, as he hit a crease up the middle, bounced outside and sprinted 83 yards down the near sideline to the Westlake 2-yard line. But the Westlake defense forced two consecutive negative running plays, and on third-down Creekside was called for illegal procedure, backing the Seminoles up to the 12-yard line.

No worries. On the next play, Lett faked a handoff to his left, rolled to his right, stayed patient and delivered a strike to Derrick White in the back corner of the end zone for the winning score with 1:34 left in the game.

Westlake drove to the Creekside 17-yard line with help from a taunting penalty. But on fourth-and-10, Johnson’s pass was picked off at the goal line by sophomore Ricky McCrary with just :09 seconds left to end the game.

Westlake head coach Bobby May did not mince words afterward. Last week, the Lions went down to south Georgia and did something not many teams in the state do: beat Colquitt County, which hadn’t lost a home game since 2017. May doesn’t think his team handled that success well.

“We started reading our press clippings and listening to people telling us how good we are,” May said. “We didn’t have a good week of practice and you can’t do that against a good team like Creekside. We believed the hype and started eating the rat poison, instead of listening to our coaches and staying focused.

“But we get a bye week next week,” May said. “It’s coming at a good time for us. We’ll get refocused and we’ll be fine.”

While acknowledging the win was a big one, Dixon said it’s just one step on a long journey for his team. Like Westlake, Dixon’s team had a signature win of its own in the Seminoles’ season opener, 19-14 at Grayson.

“We’ve said since January that our goal is to play 15 games, and win that 15th game,” he said. “This was just one step up the totem pole.”

Westlake 0 0 7 13 20

Creekside 6 6 0 15 27

C – Cameron Burch 4 run (kick failed)

C – Kamauri Davis 10 run (run failed)

W – Jai’Den Thomas 4 run (kick good)

W – Thomas 1 run (run failed)

C – Nyqua Lett 15 run (Davis run)

W – RJ Johnson 4 run (kick good)

C – Derrick White 12 pass from Lett (kick good)