Creekside 42, Woodward Academy 17

High school football
High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

Seminoles scored 3 TDs in the final 5 minutes of the second quarter to seize command and win the Region 3-5A crown

So much for recruiting ratings.

Woodward Academy came to “The Swamp” at Creekside with four prospects on its defense rated as “3-stars,” all committed to Power Five college programs, and a running back rated as a “4-star” with 44 college offers.

But the Seminoles acted like they couldn’t care less, as they battered the War Eagles on both sides of the ball on the way to a 42-17 win in a game that was for the Region 3-5A championship. It is their second region championship in the past three seasons, under the leadership of head coach Maurice Dixon, who went 0-10 in 2017, his first season, before leading the program to a region championship the next season.

Creekside, which started its season a few weeks late due to COVID-19 protocols in Fulton County Schools, finished undefeated (6-0) in league play and 6-2 overall. The Seminoles only two losses were in their first two games of the season to teams with a combined record of 15-2 coming into Friday – Westlake (7-1), ranked No. 3 in Class 6A, which has clinched its seventh consecutive region title, and Cartersville (8-1), ranked No. 4 in Class 5A.

The game turned late in the second quarter. Woodward (6-4, 6-1) took a 17-14 lead with just under five minutes left in the period, on a 70-yard touchdown pass from senior QB Banks Snellings to RB Damari Alston. The junior has offers from nearly every big-time program in America, including three schools that will most likely be ranked in the top five next week by the College Football Playoff selection committee – Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame (supposedly, Georgia Tech has offered, Georgia has not).

Alston snuck out of the backfield, ran past the Creekside linebacker attempting to cover him along the far sideline and Snellings hit him in stride. It would be the last points of the night for the War Eagles.

The Seminoles answered with three touchdowns before the end of the quarter. First, on the third play of Creekside’s next possession following Woodward’s go-ahead touchdown, junior RB Cameron Burch caught a quick screen in the near flat from junior QB Nyqua Lett, picked up a block from senior WR Wesley Campbell, split two Woodward defenders and raced 57 yards for a touchdown and a 21-17 lead with 3:30 left before halftime.

The Creekside kickoff team forced a fumble on the War Eagle’s attempted return, and the Seminoles took over at the Woodward 27-yard line. Five plays into the drive, with the assistance of a pass interference call, senior RB Jamond Lee darted up the middle from 4-yards out to push the Creekside lead to 28-17, with just under two minutes left.

The Seminole defense gave the ball right back to the offense when Snellings’ third-down pass was picked off in the near flat by senior DE Dennard Flowers, who returned it 10 yards to the Woodward 17-yard line with 12 seconds to go in the quarter. Creekside was hit with a penalty for having too many men on the field on first down, but Lett threw a dart down the middle to Campbell on the next play to move the ball to the War Eagles’ 1-yard line with 6 seconds left. On the final play of the half, Lee skipped into the end zone off left tackle for a 35-17 lead.

Lee led all rushers with 140 yards on 18 carries and 3 touchdowns. Burch chipped in with 103 yards on just 7 carries as the Creekside offensive line – which sports two, “3-star” college signees in Jalil Muhammad (Florida International) and Jordan Davis (South Carolina) – and bruising senior H-back Jahquan Baker led a running attack that piled up 304 yards. Lett completed 7-of-12 passes for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns, the final one – a 71-yarder to junior WR William “Trey” Edwards – was the only score by either team in the second half.

While the Creekside offense slowed the pace and bled the clock in the third quarter, the defense turned up the heat. The Seminole defensive front, led by Flowers, Muhammad, junior Kasey Bolton and senior Lenorris Robinson, who had three sacks, was unblockable. Along with sophomore DE Malik Tullis, junior LB Vincent Hill and senior LB Marcel Hudson, Creekside held Alston, who came into the game averaging 136 yards per game, to just 96 on 12 carries.

Snellings was harassed into completing just 8-of-21 passes for 145 yards – nearly half of it on the 70-yard touchdown pass to Alston. He was sacked five times for minus 44 yards.

Creekside will host Harris County (6-4), the No. 4 seed from Region 2-5A, next week in the first round of the state playoffs, while Woodward will host Whitewater (5-5), the No. 3 seed.

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