Hillcrest fended off an attempt at a comeback by rival Tuscaloosa County, scoring two touchdowns in the second half to secure a 32-14 road win on Friday night.
It was the sixth straight win in the rivalry for Patriots coach Sam Adams and the first career start for freshman quarterback Ethan Crawford, who led the team to 33 points off the bench last week.
“I thought he played with a lot of poise,” Adams said. “They’re gonna bring a lot of pressure, and I thought he sat in there when he should’ve sat in and I thought he got out of there when he had to get out.”
Crawford finished 9-for-16 for 175 yards, completing passes to five different receivers. His 79-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Andre Siler put the Patriots up two scores after the momentum had shifted to Tuscaloosa County late in the third quarter.
After trailing 17-7 at halftime, the Wildcats ran the ball on 13 of their first 16 plays of the second half. Senior quarterback Brylan Jackson scored from two yards out to trim the deficit within one score. After a quick Hillcrest three-and-out, a 26-yard pass from Jackson and a 39-yard pass from freshman quarterback Brax Garrison had the Wildcats eight yards from taking the lead.
On the next play, Garrison couldn’t corral a bad snap and Hillcrest recovered the fumble, scoring on the 79-yarder three plays later. It was one of three fumbles lost by Tuscaloosa County and continued a trend of struggles in the red zone.
After five red-zone drives netted six points last week, the team scored seven on three trips inside the 20 on Friday.
“I’m afraid we have the mindset of when is the next bad thing gonna happen,” Wildcats coach Jay Todd said. “Instead of going and making good things happen.”
The Wildcats also committed 10 penalties for 105 yards.
Junior running back Damien Taylor was the bright spot for Tuscaloosa County, carrying the ball 22 times for 191 yards. Eleven of his 22 rushes went for more than 10 yards.
“He is the key that unlocks the gate,” Todd said. “Without him we’re locked out.”
Key stat: Tuscaloosa County has scored one touchdown and two field goals on eight total red-zone drives this season.
Next: Hillcrest (1-1) opens it region schedule against defending region champion Hueytown. Tuscaloosa County (0-2) does the same, traveling to Mountain Brook.