By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Hilldale’s objective of keeping Papi White in check worked — for much of this Class 3A quarterfinal contest.
But the Seminole running back, and some critical Hornet mistakes, eventually told the tale in a 43-28 Hilldale loss Friday at Hornet Field.
White had 303 yards rushing on 33 carries and scored four touchdowns on the ground, two in a decisive turn in the fourth quarter. The senior, who now has 3,116 yards for the season, had all the Chieftains’ scoring down to the point. He caught a 25-yard reception for a TD in the second quarter and finished the game with a scoop up of a fumble which he took 53 yards to the house. He also had five extra-point kicks.
“He’s a special player,” Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart said. “Guys like that are going to get loose every now and then but I thought we did a decent job of containing him. Just needed to try and score with them and did that for a while.”
For just over a half.
Chandler Puckett connected with Bradley Campbell over the top of two defenders on the Hornets’ first possession of the second half for 48 yards and a 21-14 Hilldale advantage. White, who had 113 yards at the half on the ground, delivered a counterpunch when he broke loose on a 93-yard run on a sweep with 5:51 left in the third to knot the game.
Then things began to unravel for the No. 10 Hornets (10-3).
Pinned in its end of the field, Hilldale had a special teams error when deep snapper Hunter Olson sailed a snap over Puckett’s head as the latter was in punt formation. He hastily retreated and beat a Chieftain defender to the ball, but the safety put No. 3 Seminole (13-0) ahead to stay with 11:12 to play.
Back-to-back penalties for delay of game and offsides forced Hilldale to kick from its 10 after the safety. Then, aided by two personal foul penalties including a late hit call, the Chieftains drove 52 yards in seven plays, White scoring from 8 yards out for a 37-21 advantage with 7:49 to play.
Hilldale wasn’t done though. Puckett (17-of-35, 198 yards) completed five of six passes and ran for 17 yards on another play on a 14-play, 80-yard march. Campbell took an end-around the final 5 yards with 3:53 to play.
Campbell, who played the entire second half with a shoulder injury sustained on defense in the second quarter, made a leaping grab of the ensuing onside kick but was at his team’s 49 when he made the grab, crossing the 50 on the catch. On the next play, White went 49 yards to make it 37-28 with 3:40 remaining.
The Chieftains added a final tally when on a hook-and-ladder toss from Puckett to Campbell to Seth Reheard, Reheard was blasted by a Seminole defender. Up came —you guessed it — White with the ball, who took it 53 yards with 2:39 on the clock.
“We had to overcome and play better than we did the first half,” White said.
A lot of that was due to a spirited defensive effort by Hilldale.
Linebacker Jake Adams came up with an interception off Chieftains quarterback Doc Harvey four plays into the game to set up Hilldale’s first score, a 24-yard connection between Puckett and Campbell.
White opened the next drive with his longest carry of the first half, a 27-yarder off the sweep he would hurt the Hornets with frequency. But Hilldale came up with another break when safety Matt Bargsten came up with another interception of Harvey. Hilldale wasn’t able to capitalize on that break, though, as running back Seth Reheard lost control of the football on a 20-yard run across midfield. Xavier Freeman recovered for Seminole, and White would score on a third-and-goal run from 5 yards out just seconds into the second quarter.
“We tried to make him run side to side and not let him get into the open field and gang tackle him and come up breaks. He’s tough. He’s light on his feet and very shifty,” Bargsten said.
The Hornets answered with a 61-yard march to regain the lead. Hunter Woods’ 29-yard carry to the Seminole 23 was the big gainer. Five plays later, he carried over from the 3 to make it a 14-7 Hornets advantage.
The two teams traded possessions then Seminole went seven plays and 64 yards to tie it again. White had a 21-yard run on the second play of the drive but it was his receiving work that capped it on a 25-yard toss coming out of the backfield from Harvey with 3:59 on the clock.
The gritty play for Hilldale was most evident in Puckett and Campbell. Puckett hung tough after a second-half beating — he was sacked five times, all on hard tackles, yet the 80-yard drive with time waning was one of the most fluid this season for the Hornets.
Campbell didn’t shy away from a run call for the final touchdown of the season.
“It hurts, no doubt about it,” he said after the game amid a power blackout that actually called the game with less than a minute to play. “I landed (on the tackler) and someone rolled on my arm and the doctor said I get an AC joint injury and it tore one of my ligaments.
“It hurts as bad not realizing our dream which was a state title. But only one team wins in the end.”
And 18 seniors, including all the aforementioned except for Bargsten, played their final game in red and black.
“That’s the kind of kids we got,” Kirkhart said. “They’ll play to the end. That’s what competitors do, that’s what winners do and that’s what they did tonight. They’ve been a joy to coach.”
Seminole plays co-No. 1 Kingfisher, a 46-8 winner over Beggs, in next week’s semifinals.
SEMINOLE 43, HILLDALE 28
Seminole 0 14 7 22—43
Hilldale 7 7 7 7—28
Hill-Bradley Campbell 24 pass from Chandler Puckett (Puckett kick), 7:59.
Semi-Papi White 5 run (White kick), 11:54.
Hill-Hunter Woods 3 run (Puckett kick), 9:10.
Semi-White 25 pass from Doc Harvey (White kick), 3:59.
Hill-Campbell 48 pass from Puckett (Puckett kick), 10:45.
Semi-White 93 run (White kick), 5:51.
Semi-Safety, ball snapped over punter into end zone, 11:12.
Semi-White 8 run (White kick), 7:49.
Hill-Campbell 5 run (Puckett kick), 3:53.
Sem-White 49 run (White kick), 3:40.
Sem-White 53 fumble recovery (kick failed), 2:39.
First Downs 17 17
Rushes-Yards 47-359 29-67
Passing Yards 62 198
Passes C-A-I 4-12-3 17-36-0
Punts-Avg 3-29 4-43
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 5-42 11-120
Rushing—Seminole, White 33-303 (4 TD). Hilldale, Woods 8-41 (TD).
Passing—Seminole, Harvey 4-12-62-3 (TD). Hilldale, Puckett 17-35-198-0 (2 TD).
Receiving — Seminole, Xavier Freeman 3-37. Hilldale, Cambpell 8-125 (2 TD).