Woodward Academy 21, Creekside 14

High school football

Credit: For the AJC

caption arrowCaption
High school football

Credit: For the AJC

The War Eagles claimed the Region 3-5A title with the win over the Seminoles

In a battle for a region championship that looked like two games in one, Woodward Academy made one more play than Creekside.

With just over 90 seconds left in regulation, War Eagle senior linebacker Deon King Jr. tipped a pass intended for a Creekside receiver, and junior safety River Hanson snatched the ball out of the air on his way out of bounds to thwart the Seminoles’ attempt at tying the game, as Woodward held off Creekside 21-14, to claim the Region 3-5A title. All the game’s points were scored in the first half.

The win gave Woodward (10-0, 7-0), ranked No. 3, its sixth region crown in the past eight seasons. This is the eighth time in the program’s 120 seasons the War Eagles have finished the regular season undefeated. Creekside, ranked No. 2, finished the regular season 8-2, 6-1.

“It was a total team effort tonight,” Woodward head coach John Hunt said afterward. “Our offense hit on a couple of big plays. We got a big play out of our special teams and our defense won it for us in the end. Just a total team win.”

Woodward struck quickly on its first possession of the game, after forcing Creekside into a three-and-out. On the War Eagle’s third play from scrimmage, junior quarterback Jalen Woods hit senior receiver C.J. Burton down the near seam for a 47-yard touchdown to give Woodward a 7-0 lead after the extra point kick.

The War Eagles wasted little time increasing their lead when Creekside failed to corral a short kickoff and Woodward recovered at the Seminoles’ 18-yard line. After senior running back Damari Alston was stopped for no gain on the first play from scrimmage, the Auburn commit found room off left tackle on the next play and scooted into the endzone for a 14-0 lead.

Creekside responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 30-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Nyqua Lett to junior receiver Lorenzo York, who beat his man on a post route down the middle of the field. The Seminoles missed the extra point kick, but the lead had been cut to 14-6.

The Seminole defense gave the ball right back to the offense when Woods’ pass on second down went off the hands of his receiver and was grabbed by Creekside junior defensive back Daiquan White at midfield. On the 10th play of the ensuing drive in which Creekside converted two fourth downs, senior running back Cameron Burch busted up the middle and outran the Woodward secondary for a 31-yard touchdown. Lett’s two-point conversion run tied the score at 14-14 with nine minutes to go in the second quarter.

But Woodward and Alston slugged right back. After gaining a yard on the first play of the War Eagles’ ensuing drive, Alston bounced off tackle, dipped outside and blazed down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown run that proved to be the game winner.

Two of Woodward’s first three games of the season – a 17-14 win over Class A Eagle’s Landing Christian and a 14-9 win over rival Class 4A Marist – were tight ballgames, but since then no team had come closer than 17 points of the War Eagles until Friday night.

Still, head coach John Hunt wasn’t worried about his team’s ability to stay composed in a one-score game.

“I knew they had it in them because of the Marist game,” Hunt said afterward. “Since then we’ve been playing well and playing up to our standard. I knew they had resilience.”

Creekside head coach Maurice Dixon said his team’s inconsistent week of practice hurt them.

“For us it all starts in practice,” Dixon said. “We were inconsistent in practice and it showed. I thought we settled in on defense in the second half and started to run the ball better. But our goal was to play 15 games this season and that goal has not changed.”

Both teams will host first-round playoff games next week. Woodward will host Veterans of Macon, the No. 4 seed out of Region 1, while Creekside will host Coffee County, the No. 3 seed.

“These kids are super coachable and they love each other,” Hunt said of his team. “We just need to keep playing team ball and stay healthy.”