SIMPSONVILLE – After likely seeing any hopes of a third consecutive Region 1-AAAA championship fade away in a 27-9 home loss to T.L. Hanna last week, Hillcrest quickly assured there would be no hangover this week.
The Rams jumped out to a 33-0 lead early in the second quarter and went on to a 41-7 win over Easley on Senior Night Friday at Chandler Stadium.
“The whole team had a great week of practice. They just hate losing and they hate looking the way they did last week,” Hillcrest coach Greg Porter said. “We felt like we not only let our school down, but also each other down and the community, and we refuse to go back to those days.
“We’re not going back to those days.”
In his final regular season home game, Hillcrest quarterback Collin Sneed went 4-for-4 passing on the opening drive including a 51-yard pass to Brandon Peppers that set up a four-yard touchdown run by Quintavis Ballenger.
On Hillcrest’s next drive, Sneed ran for 15 yards on the first play, then connected with Quentin Martin on a 30-yard touchdown pass on the next as the Rams took a 12-0 lead.
After forcing another Easley three-and-out, Hillcrest senior North-South All-Star selection Brian Spurgeon provided the play of the night. Spurgeon caught a punt at his own 22-yard line, immediately juked a would-be tackler and took off sideways toward the right sideline. At the last moment he’d be able to do so without going out of bounds, Spurgeon turned the corner, carefully kept his feet in bounds for a few yards before taking off to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown return.
“When I came to the sideline, I didn’t notice I was that close to it ,” Spurgeon said. “I had to tightrope it. … Then I got a couple of blocks downfield and scored.”
On the first play of the second quarter Sneed and Spurgeon connected on a 32-yard pass to Easley’s three-yard line. Ballenger scored on the next play to up the Rams lead to 26-0.
Following a great special teams tackle on the kickoff, the Green Wave started at their own 12-yard line. On the next play, Easley fumbled and Hillcrest senior linebacker Isaiah Sayegh returned it three yards for a touchdown.
After partially blocking an Easley punt that landed out of bounds at the Green Wave 13-yard line, the Sneed and Spurgeon hooked up for a nine-yard touchdown to help Hillcrest take a 41-0 lead into halftime.
Sneed finished with 200 yards passing, while Spurgeon caught eight passes for 94 yards.
The Rams (8-2, 4-2) piled up 250 yards of total offense in the first half, while holding Easley (5-5, 2-4) to 15.
The Green Wave got on the scoreboard on the opening drive of the second half when Dalton Black threw a 26-yard touchdown to Carter Wiles.
On their night, seniors accounted for all of the Rams’ six touchdowns. It was one of Hillcrest’s 27 seniors who didn’t suit up Friday that served as an inspiration for the team though. Standout linebacker and short-yardage running back J.D. Ballenger, who’s scored 37 touchdowns the past two seasons combined, was injured against Hanna and is out for the rest of the season.
Porter said J.D. Ballenger has been around the program ever since he took over as coach when Ballenger was in the seventh grade. He added that Friday’s game was bigger than Hillcrest trying to get back on track this week, or facing an Easley team that had defeated Greenwood the week before.
“This game was about a young man who’s committed so much of his time and energy to help us build this program to the position that it’s in,” Porter said. “To not have him finish his senior, it’s hard. It’s emotional.
“I think our kids responded well, stayed focused and played hard for him.”