SIMPSONVILLE — Hillcrest waited a year to get the chance to avenge its only loss from the 2014 season. On Friday night at Chandler Stadium, Westside made sure Hillcrest would have to keep waiting.
For much of the defensive slugfest Friday, it felt like the first team to 100 yards might be the winner. But when Westside quarterback Jackson Williamson threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Lomax on the Rams’ final offensive play it gave them a total of just 97 yards.
Much more importantly though, it gave them take a 19-12 lead in double overtime. As it did all night, Westside’s defense stood tall on Hillcrest’s possession of the second overtime. Quarterback Collin Sneed’s desperation pass on fourth down from the 28-yard line fell incomplete and Westside erupted in celebration as it took a big leg up in the Region 1-AAAA race.
Class AAAA third-ranked Hillcrest fell to 5-1 and 1-1 in Region 1-AAAA, while No. 6 Westside stayed unbeaten at 6-0 and 2-0 in region play. Westside held Hillcrest to 107 yards of total offense and four first downs.
“Westside’s probably one of the best defenses I’ve seen. They were fast,” Hillcrest coach Greg Porter said. “We could make a play here or there, but they were really good and a well-coached team.”
While the wet, windy conditions didn’t help either team’s offense much, both defenses caused the most problems.
After finding no running room all night, Hillcrest’s Quintavis Ballenger found a small hole on the Rams’ first play of the fourth quarter. He burst through it for a 51-yard touchdown giving Hillcrest a 9-6 lead with 10:16 left in the game.
Trailing for the first time all season, Westside was stopped by Hillcrest’s defense on its next two drives. When Westside had to punt with less than two minutes to go, it appeared Hillcrest was set to hang on for the win. But Hillcrest could not convert a first down and only forced Westside to use two of its three timeouts as one of Hillcrest’s runs went out of bounds.
On Westside’s ensuing drive, the Rams drove to Hillcrest’s 13-yard line. Hillcrest’s defense allowed its first points of the game with 14.9 seconds left when Westside’s Chance Poore hit a 30-yard field goal to force overtime.
Hillcrest’s Gustavo Martinez-Salas hit the first field goal of his career from 29 yards out in the first overtime, before Poore forced a second overtime with a 27-yard field goal.
Westside got the ball first in the second overtime and on third down, Lomax made a terrific catch for the Rams’ first offensive touchdown of the night.
On Hillcrest’s ensuing possession a holding penalty and a sack left the Rams with fourth down at the 28-yard line. Sneed was flushed out of the pocket and his throw to the end zone fell incomplete.
It’s Hillcrest first loss since Oct. 3, 2014 when the Rams lost at Westside 24-23 after missing an extra point in the final two minutes.
“I reminded our team that we lost to them last year and it was our turning point,” Porter said. “If we get back up and learn from this game, we’re fine. If we don’t learn from this game, then we’re going to have some problems.”
The first half was as miserable as the weather for both offenses. At the break, Hillcrest had a 26-20 advantage in total yards.
The only score of the opening half came after what appeared to be Hillcrest’s best scoring chance. After a punt pinned Westside at its own two-yard line, it was forced to punt and Hillcrest’s Brian Spurgeon had an 11-yard return to Westside’s 18-yard line.
Hillcrest lined up to try a 30-yard field goal, but the kick was blocked and Westside’s Matthew Martin picked up the loose ball and raced 76 yards for a touchdown. Hillcrest blocked the extra point leaving Westside with a 6-0 lead with 2:03 left in the first quarter.
Hillcrest avoided disaster early in the second quarter. On its first offensive play Hillcrest fumbled the snap and Westside recovered at Hillcrest’s 7-yard line. Westside returned the favor though on the next play and Hillcrest recovered the fumble at its 13-yard line.
There were no other scoring threats the rest of the half as Westside took a 6-0 lead into the half.
Hillcrest wasted a golden scoring opportunity midway through the third quarter after a blocked punt gave the Rams the ball at Westside’s 18-yard line. Hillcrest drove to Westside’s four-yard line before the drive ended on a fourth down incompletion.
Two plays later, a bad snap through the end zone got Hillcrest on the scoreboard with a safety. It cut Westside’s lead to 6-2 with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
Spurgeon returned the ensuing kick to Westside’s 32-yard line, but Hillcrest failed to take advantage of the field position again as a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
“We played a hard fought game all the way to the end,” Porter said. “I’m so proud of our community for coming out to support us on a night like tonight.
“Our team’s got to rise back up. This is one game. It’s not over. We still have a lot of goals ahead of us that we can meet.”