Hillcrest travels to face Jaguars in region opener
Fri. September 07, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
Hillcrest quarterback Riley Nix takes off with the ball against Hartselle. (Photo by Photo | Kelly Lambert)
TUSCALOOSA | The Hillcrest High School Patriots were down after an opening loss, but they aren’t out of the Class 6A, Region 5 race.
After losing 42-14 to Hartselle, Hillcrest has to travel for its first region game, but it doesn’t have to travel far to reach the Northridge campus.
"I thought our coaches’ and players’ attitudes were fantastic and focused on the game coming up," said Scott Martin, Hillcrest’s first-year head coach. "After a tough loss like that, where you felt that nothing went right, you couldn’t have a better foe than to play a crosstown rival because it gets you focused real quick back on the next game, not the past game."
Northridge rallied to beat Bob Jones 40-30 as Bo Scarbrough rushed for 214 yards on 37 carries and scored three touchdowns.
"We’re kind of the perfect storm," said Northridge coach Mike Smith. "You’ve got the region situation, but you’ve got the rival to get a lot of focus and a lot of positive energy going and they played an outstanding football team the week before. You’re going to make your biggest improvements from week one to week two, and then you throw in the rivalry, yeah, this will be a completely different ballclub."
Both teams are coming off their best seasons in school history. Hillcrest’s 2011 team, with Adam Winegarden as the head coach, went 12-1 and reached the third round of the playoffs. The Patriots won the region title with a 7-0 record as they downed Northridge 35-14 in the ninth game of the season. Scarbrough suffered a season-ending knee injury early in that game and missed the final three games. Northridge, which went 10-2, posted its first Class 6A playoff win before falling in the second round.
Martin took over after Winegarden left for Fairhope and installed a new offense that features more passing.
"When you play Hillcrest, it’s always going to be the same story between us," Smith said. "It’s become very physical, a four-quarter war. I don’t see it changing. It’s always been played with a lot of class and a lot of respect for both programs, and I hope it continues to be that way."
Hillcrest junior Riley Nix started at quarterback last week and threw a touchdown pass to Austin Williams.
Martin said he wants to see more opportunities for running back Jertavious Sanders and receivers Williams, Darnell Webb and Caleb Campbell.
"All of our receivers can do something with the football," Martin said. "I feel comfortable getting the ball in all of their hands. We just didn’t execute very well last week. That was a point of emphasis this week. We’ve gone back and tried to trim it down to the things that we can do well.
"Riley’s a fabulous leader for our football team and does a great job. He didn’t have a very good game the other night, but that was his first varsity game ever to start. I thought he did an OK job, but I think it started with me offensively. I didn’t think I did a very good job. It’s hard to ask them to do something when the plan stunk anyway, and it was me that caused it."
Martin is aware of the challenge Scarbrough presents, but the Jaguars have another weapon in James Cox, who has committed to Southern Mississippi. Cox caught a touchdown pass from Tanner Cline and halted a Bob Jones drive in the fourth quarter by making an interception.
"They’re pretty scary offensively," Martin said. "They’ve got a running back that gained over 200 yards on 37 carries, which means he’s durable and they will continue to give it to him. You can’t just throw all the eggs in that basket because then they can pop up and throw it to quality wide receivers out on the perimeter."
Smith saw his team overcome a 21-7 deficit.
"You always wonder how your team would react when it looks gloom and doom, but I was really proud of our kids," Smith said. "Our quarterback improved from our preseason game (a 27-0 loss to McGill-Toolen). I think our offensive line is starting to understand the concepts there. We’ve got eight new starters on offense, and that is a maturing process that may not catch hold fully until about the fourth ballgame. It’s like Hillcrest with a new offense. When it catches on and clicks with all 11 of them at the same time, then it’s going to be hard to stop. At least for us, I hope all 11 of ours start clicking."
Reach Andrew Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0223.