Hilldale scored on its first two possessions Friday night, but frustration soon followed.
A blitzing Sallisaw defense registered seven sacks, Hilldale’s rushing game was pretty much non-existent, and the Hornets find themselves in a deep hole in the District 4A-4 race after a 40-21 loss puts them at 2-4 overall and winless in three district battles.
Right tackle Watson Schiller injured an ankle on the last play of practice on Wednesday. A two-way lineman, his absence was definitely felt on the offensive side.
“We keep blaming youth, we keep blaming youth. Well, you know, we had two sophomores, a junior, a freshman and one senior out there and (Sallisaw) brought the pressure,” Hilldale head coach David Blevins said.
“Once we get down, it’s hard to get back up. It’s about being young, but that can’t be an excuse anymore. We’ve got to get better.”
Johnnie Durossette was sacked six times. The seventh, by defensive end Bryce Smithson on Melchesidech Porter, became his own scoop and score from 44 yards out for the nail in the coffin with 4:50 to play.
“Our defense brought a lot of pressure,” said Sallisaw head coach and former Muskogee assistant Randon Lowe.
His offense wasn’t too shabby either.
Particularly the chemistry with quarterback Jaxon McTyre and Jace Nicholson. The two hooked up for three long pass plays of 64, 53 and 33 yards. Of McTyre’s 286 yards, 257 belonged to Nicholson on seven catches.
“We knew they had one fellow who could play the ball and he’s it,” Blevins said of Nicholson. “They’ve got a good connection.”
What isn’t connecting right now is the Hornets’ offense. They had a negative 10 yards of rushing, the lost yardage on sacks part of that statistic. Porter had 19 yards rushing, a team high. Durossette threw for 223 yards and a touchdown, but consistency in sustaining drives escaped them after the quick start.
“That’s what we’ve got to find,” Blevins said. “The thing is both quarterbacks do certain things well, but turnovers and just like you said, it’s consistency — and really it’s not just with the offense, it’s as a team and that includes we as coaches.”
Hilldale struck pay dirt on its first possession, taking advantage of a short field due to a shanked punt and went 39 yards in four plays, Dylan Walker scoring on a jet sweep from 15 yards out.
Two big plays followed, one by each team. McTyre found Nicholson up top on the 64-yard connection, Nicholson making the grab at the Hornets’ 40 and taking it to the house to tie the game.
The Hornets then made it 2-for-2 on scoring drives. Durossette bounced back from a sack and from his own 22, found Hunter Parson near midfield. Parson looped around coverage and beat it to the end zone. Peyton Bennett’s PAT made it 14-7.
The second quarter was all Sallisaw, starting with the Black Diamonds special teams.
Hilldale went with a QB shuffle on its fourth series and wound up going backwards from its 31 to the 15. On fourth down, Bennett’s punt was blocked out of the end zone, and after the free kick, McTyre found Nicholson again behind coverage, this time going 53 yards to make it a 16-14 game.
The Black Diamonds (3-3, 2-1) would never again trail, scoring 17 unanswered points before Porter’s 4-yard TD run with 7:12 to play. On that series, the Hornets found a little momentum with inserted freshman running back Eric Virgil making a catch in the flat for 35 yards to the Sallisaw 25. It came down to Porter’s carry on a fourth-and-goal.
Hilldale will host Muldrow on Thursday.
SALLISAW 40, HILLDALE 21
SHS 7 9 10 14—40
HHS 14 0 0 7—21
HHS: Dylan Walker 15 run (Peyton Bennett kick), 9:22.
SHS: Jace Nicholson 64 pass from Jaxon Mctyre (Dylan Upton kick), 8:28.
HHS: Hunter Parson 78 pass from Johnnie Durossette (Bennett kick), 7:03.
SHS: Punt blocked out of end zone, 9:39
SHS: Jace Nicholson 53 pass from Mctyre (Upton kick), 8:16.
SHS: Upton 21 FG, 6:38.
SHS: Mctyre 1 run (Upton kick), 3:18.
SHS: Nicholson 33 pass from Mctyre (Upton kick), 10:09.
HHS: Melchesidech Porter 4 run (Bennett kick), 7:12.
SHS: Bryce Smithson 44 fumble return (Upton kick), 4:50
First Downs 15 8
Rushes-Yards 38-165 33- (-)10
Passes C-A-I 10-19-0 13-15-0
Passing Yards 286 223
Punts-Avg. 2-16 4-42 Fumbles-Lost 3-1 4-3
Penalties-Yards 11-93 12-90
Rushing: SHS, Sawyer Pool 20-103. HHS, Porter 7-19 (TD).
Passing: SHS, Mctyre 10-19-286-0 (3 TD). HHS, Durossette 13-15-223-0 (TD).
Receiving: SHS, Nicholson 7-257 (3 TD). HHS, Hunter Parson 2-88, Walker 5-45.