By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
Before the game, Travis Bryant, Hilldale’s defensive coordinator, boasted that “Checotah has not seen a defense like the one we have.”
Checotah quarterback Tyler Addy would certainly agree with that as the Hornets pressured the 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior into a season-high three interceptions and limited the Wildcats to 76 rushing yards en route to the 35-0 victory in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs at Hornet Field on Friday night.
It was the second shutout this season for the Hornets. The other came in a 49-0 win against Keys. It’s also the first shutout for Hilldale in the playoffs in school history.
Bryant had every reason to be proud of his defense after the game.
“Our front three guys, four linebackers and secondary guys have good overall speed,” he said. “We’re also physical.
“We’ll hit you, too. I just think we’re one of the better defenses in the state. We were able to put pressure on Checotah without blitzing a lot.”
Hilldale now takes its 10-1 record into the second round of the playoffs at home next Friday night against Verdigris. Verdigris toppled Morris 50-7 in its opening-round playoff game.
Addy came into the game with 2,289 yards passing and 20 touchdowns. He only completed 16 of 38 passes for 134 yards and was intercepted by Seth Reheard, Dylan Duncan and Matt Bargsten.
Reheard returned his interception 20 yards for a touchdown with 4:09 in the first period to build the lead to 21-0.
“They were getting a lot of pressure from everywhere,” Addy said. “I’ve never had three interceptions in a game. They also have the best middle linebacker I’ve seen in high school.”
That linebacker is senior Josh Giem. He led the strong defensive effort.
“We wanted to stop the run because we knew they passed a lot,” Giem said. “We wanted to get pressure on the quarterback. They were in one of the more basic offenses we’ve seen this season. It was pretty easy to line up against them.”
Oh, the Hornets weren’t too bad on offense either.
Hilldale had 267 yards in total offense with quarterback Chandler Puckett completing 10 of 15 passes for 92 yards. On the ground, Jamaul Cullom led the way with 89 yards on 10 carries including a 43-yard scamper with 3:42 left in the first half to pad the lead to 35-0.
Puckett had a one-yard touchdown run to build the lead to 14-0 with 5:17 left in the first period. Reheard had a two-yard touchdown scamper with 1:59 left in the first quarter to increase the Hornets’ lead to 27-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The tone of this game was set early as Miles Jackson scooted 75 yards for a touchdown on a punt return with 10:33 left in the first period.
“I got a good bounce on the ball, just grabbed it and took off with it,” he said. “It just set the momentum for us and we rolled with it.”
The Wildcats end the season at 8-3.
HILLDALE 35, CHECOTAH 0
Checotah 0 0 0 0—0
Hilldale 27 8 0 0—35
Hilldale — Miles Jackson 75 punt return (Chandler Puckett kick), 10:33
Hilldale — Chandler Puckett 1 run (Puckett kick), 5:17
Hilldale — Seth Reheard 20 interception return (Puckett kick), 4:09
Hilldale — Reheard 2 run (kick failed), 1:59
Hilldale — Josh Cullom 43 run (Puckett run), 3:42.
First Downs 14 13
Rushes-Yards 31-76 40-175
Passing Yards 134 92
Passes (C-A-I) 16-38-3 10-15-0
Punts-Average 7-17.2 4-31.3
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-59 1-15
Rushing: Checotah, Jerry Casey 15-61. Hilldale, Jamaul Cullom 10-89.
Passing: Checotah, Tyler Addy 16-38-3—134. Hilldale, Chandler Puckett 10-15-0—92.
Receiving: Checotah, Deondre Owens 6-28. Hilldale, Bradley Campbell 5-56.