CHARLOTTE—Creek Wood defeated Jackson North Side 21-14 on Friday night in the first playoff win since head coach Houston Thiel was quarterback in 2005. 

Jackson North Side entered the first-round playoff matchup with a five-game winning streak, but Creek Wood’s defense held North Side scoreless in the second half to give the Red Hawks the playoff victory.

The Red Hawks’ defense showed up early as Jackson North Side opened up with a 25-yard pass play, but punted shortly after that. Creek Wood’s offense took over and moved the ball, gaining two first downs on two plays but then the usually sure-handed Danny Stansberry put the ball on the ground and North Side returned the fumble to the 4-yard line. Stansberry appeared to be on the ground, but that didn’t matter as North Side gained possession.

North Side quarterback Camryn Jones punched in a touchdown on the next play, but the Indians missed the extra point and took a 6-0 lead. 

Creek Wood took over and moved down the field with ease again until another untimely fumble gave possession back to Jackson North Side. The defense held again and forced a North Side punt. 

Creek Wood then held a sustained drive in the second quarter that ended when Danny Stansberry stretched the ball into the end zone. A successful point-after try gave the Red Hawks a 7-6 lead.

The two teams fought back and forth, exchanging punts until North Side tried a little trickery that backfired. On the first play from scrimmage at their own 22 the Indians threw a backwards pass to the wide receiver, and then he made an ill-advised throw into double coverage where Andre Darden awaited the pass. Darden took the interception to the 21-yard line, and Creek Wood scored on the next play as Elijah Donaldson found Will Secker over the middle for a touchdown to extend the Red Hawks’ lead to 14-6.

Jackson North Side got the ball back and looked to have a chance to score before half, but the offense took a lot of time to snap the ball. The Indians moved the ball to the 34-yard line and used their last timeout with seven seconds left to set up a play. Jackson North Side threw a tunnel screen to Deklyan Genesy, and he broke several tackles to get into the end zone as time expired to give North Side a touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion, the game was tied 14-14 at the half.

The second half belonged to the Red Hawks as they took the opening kickoff and returned it to the 25-yard line but then put on a clinic on offense, lulling the North Side defense to sleep with a few runs that rotated between Mitch Duke and Stansberry. On second and eight, the Red Hawks struck. Elijah Donaldson used a play-action pass and found Will Secker on a wheel route down the sideline as he glided past defenders to get into open field. Donaldson threw the ball right on the money, and Secker was gone. Creek Wood took a 21-14 lead.

The Creek Wood defense went on to stop Jackson North Side twice in Red Hawks’ territory on fourth down, which slowed any of the momentum that North Side had. With a minute and a half remaining, Creek Wood coach Houston Thiel showed some guts going for it on fourth and one. The offensive line parted the defensive front, and Stansberry took the ball right up the gut for not only a first down, but also a long gain to seal the win.

“There was no way I was going to let my teammates down,” Stansberry said when asked what he thought when coach told him he was getting the ball on fourth down. “They know they can always trust me to get that yard.”

“There was a second there where I thought about what we were going to do, but then I just decided to go win the ball game,” said Thiel. “It was really a credit to what our defense had done to that point. Even if we didn’t get the first down I felt like we would get another stop. Also I wanted to send a message to our team; we’ve got a 1500-yard back in the backfield so I like our chances.”

“This is almost indescribable,” Secker said. “The atmosphere was great, and it was a hell of a game, as long as we got the win, that’s all that matters.”

“Our season is still going and Hardin County, here we come,” Andre Darden said. “I’m proud to be a Red Hawk; this is honestly hard to describe.”

With the win, the Red Hawks will travel to Hardin County next week in the second round of the playoffs. Hardin County defeated Portland 42-14 and sit at 10-1 on the season.

“These seniors I’ve been around for a long time, some of them a really-really long time,” Thiel said. “I don’t want to be done with them, and this group plays together. We overcame a lot tonight, and it would have been easy to quit. But they didn’t; they just keep fighting.”

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