By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Hilldale gave Spiro a rerun Friday at Hornet Field and for the Bulldogs, popcorn wasn’t a part of the show.
Just like in last week's District 3A-8 title decider against Checotah, Spiro dug themselves into a hole early. But the Hornets shared the shovel work, blowing out to a 25-0 halftime lead en route to a 32-7 3A first-round playoff victory that wasn’t that close.
Aided by a clock-eating offense, Hilldale’s defense held Spiro to 9 minutes and 56 seconds possession time for the night. Spiro (8-3), which closes with back-to-back losses including the 43-28 loss where they trailed Checotah at the half 30-14, had the ball just 2:33 in the second half.
“When you hold a team like that with those kind of skill guys to seven points we’ve played good defense,” Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart said.
Good spread to both sides of the ball as the 10th-ranked Hornets (9-2) move on to face No. 4 Metro Christian, a 44-0 winner over Okmulgee, in the second round next Friday. The game will be at Metro Christian.
Hilldale scored on all four of its first-half possessions. Quarterback Chandler Puckett's 5-yard run ended a six-minute, 80-yard drive to open the game, then after Bradley Campbell recovered an onside kick, his 11-yard TD reception ended a drive that was sparked by a 33-yard toss as part of a 48-yard march.
Campbell's second TD, a 31-yard reception from Puckett, and Dakota Holmes' 18-yard run with 1:16 to go ended the scoring in the half.
“You always want to start fast and we really got the momentum going with the onside kick,” Kirkhart said.
Puckett would add a 46-yard touchdown run with 8:15 to go in the game to finish the scoring. And if anyone deserved a postgame whirlpool, it was the senior quarterback.
Not only was Puckett on the field 38 minutes, he found himself getting sacked five times in the second half, four by Spiro linebacker Cole McKinney. But not without a lot of effort to try and avoid the sacks, which extended the plays and ate up time.
“Oh man I was pretty tired,” said Puckett, who was 9-of-15 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns while running for 62 yards and two TDs on 18 carries. “I ran the ball a lot the first half (too). And talk about a hot start. Our offensive line blocked well the first half, we had some good runs and Dakota and Bradley doing their things, we were rolling.”
In the first half alone, Hilldale was 7-of-9 on third down conversions and 2-of-2 on fourth-down situations. The defense, on the field only 20 plays, snuffed the only serious threat when on its first possession down 12-0, Spiro marched to a first-and-goal at the 4 but on fourth-and-goal from the 8, linebacker Seth Reheard sacked Spiro quarterback McKinley Whitfield for a 10-yard loss.
And yet the Hornets’ defense would work up less of a sweat in the second half.
Spiro receiver Trevon Mitchum carried 69 yards for a touchdown off an end-around to start the second half. It would be one of three consecutive one-play drives and four overall in the second half. The next one ended on a Holmes interception and the third was on another turnover as linebacker Jake Adams recovered a fumble. Kaden Weaver’s interception ended the final Bulldogs possession on a first-down play with 1:59 to play.
“They have a lot of skill guys and we came up big on both sides of the ball,” said Adams, who also had the first of two consecutive sacks to help end one of two four-play drives in the second half — the other coming by defensive end Justin Sanders.
“We had one mess-up (the reverse for a score) and we just had to forget about it and play. We’ll take this one, learn from it and use the momentum next week.”
Reheard, who missed four games earlier in the year with an ankle sprain, had his first 100-yard game (26 carries, 122 yards). Hunter Woods, alternating series with him all night, had 86 yards on 13 carries. Hilldale wound up with 300 yards rushing to 81 for Spiro, 69 on one play, outgained them 474 to 128 in total offense and had a 27-6 edge in first downs.
Campbell had 94 yards on four catches and the two TDs, Holmes three for 64 and took an end-around off the read option for an 18-yard score.
HILLDALE 32, SPIRO 7
Spiro 0 0 7 0—7
Hilldale 12 13 0 7—32
Hil-Chandler Puckett 5 run (run failed), 6:12.
Hil-Bradley Campbell 11 pass from Puckett (run failed), 3:11.
Hil-Campbell 31 from Puckett (run failed), 5:39.
Hil-Dakota Holmes 18 run (Puckett kick), 1:16.
Spi-Trevon Mitchem 69 run (Seth Haynes kick), 11:36.
Hil-Puckett 46 run (Puckett kick), 8:15.
First Downs 6 27
Rushes-Yards 18-81 63-300
Passing Yards 47 174
Passes C-A-I 4-10-2 9-15-1
Punts-Avg. 2-42 1-50
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-27 5-60
Rushing: Spiro, Trevon Mitchum, 1-69 (TD). Hilldale, Seth Reheard 26-122, Hunter Woods 13-86, Puckett 18-62 (2 TD).
Passing: Spiro, McKinley Whitfield 4-10-47-2. Hilldale, Puckett 9-15-174-1 (2 TD).
Receiving: Spiro, Malik Walker 3-18. Hilldale, Campbell 4-94 (2 TDs), Holmes 3-64, Hunter Olson 2-16.