By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Hillcrest Hornets (2-1) defeated the Waynesville Tigers (0-3) on Friday night, 42-34. Hillcrest was led by senior Malik Starks with his three touchdowns and key contributions on defense. Starks also was the kicker on kick off plays.
“I do what my coaches ask me to do, I try to go out and execute the best that I can,” said Starks. “Coach put me in the right spot to make plays and I did my best to make those plays.”
Hillcrest coach John Beckham couldn’t be more proud of the role Starks is playing this year.
“I always tell people that he’s the best football player that nobody’s ever heard of, but they will by the end of the year,” said Beckham. “He’s an outstanding football player. He’s one of our captains, he does everything right, on the field, off the field, and he’s a lot of fun to coach. When the lights come on, he cranks it up a notch and really plays.”
The Waynesville Tigers got on the scoreboard first when senior David Adams, Jr. scored on a 4-yard pass from Braden Drehle. Hillcrest quickly answered when Blake Hanna ran the kickoff return 70+ yards for a touchdown. Hillcrest scored again when Starks got his first of three touchdowns. When the dust had settled, the score was 12-7 in favor of the Hornets.
The second quarter the teams moved the ball up and down the field well. Dion Davis caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Haden Parton but that would be the Hornets’ only touchdown in the quarter, as turnovers and miscues cost them. Waynesville scored three unanswered touchdowns to take a 27-20 lead at halftime. The Tigers also made a key stop on a fourth and goal with :04 left to keep the Hornets from scoring.
It would be a tale of two halves for Waynesville, as they struggled to score after halftime.
“Both teams are playing their butts off and they made a couple more plays and we made too many mistakes,” said Waynesville coach Brad Drehle. “We’ve got to eliminate the mistakes. That third quarter, we’ve got to come out and do things better. As coaches, we’ve got to look at it; is it our conditioning? Is it our message at halftime? What is it that’s creating the situation and we’ve got to do better, every one of us.”
The second half belonged to Hillcrest, where even on miscued plays, Parton managed to scramble and make plays. Hillcrest outscored the Tigers 16-0 to give them a 36-27 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“At halftime we changed personnel a little bit,” said Beckham. “We are struggling at our outside linebacker position, we are a little thin there, and we changed our alignment just a little bit, trying to help our guys out. It made a big difference and it really helped us in the second half.”
In the fourth quarter Waynesville stepped it up defensively and had Hillcrest at mid-field looking at a fourth and thirteen. Hillcrest lined up for the punt, it was a bad snap, but Parton managed to pick up the ball and scramble his way out of trouble. He then saw a wide open Josh Powell, who he connected with for a 59-yard touchdown.
“It was a crazy play,” said Parton. “I just want to thank the O-Line, they did a really good job tonight of blocking and getting me open. On the punt, Malik was tired and had a bad snap. I picked it up, ran around, did a little spin move, and Josh Powell was right there. Waynesville played good defense, they prepared for us very well.”
With approximately five minutes to go in the fourth quarter Hillcrest fumbled the ball, giving Waynesville hope. That hope was stripped away when sophomore Dion Davis intercepted an errant pass from Drehle. Hillcrest tried to kill the clock but Waynesville still had life. Waynesville’s final touchdown came with 1:11 left in the game. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Hornets. With :57 remaining in the game, Hillcrest let the clock run down and took the delay of game penalty. On the fourth down punt, Waynesville’s punt returner was tackled by none other than Starks. Waynesville was out of time outs and a controversial call by the referees allowed the clock run out on them.
“The thing that we can’t fault our kids is, when you’re coming off 0-10 you’re carrying a lot of weight with you,” said Drehle. “These kids just keep fighting. It speaks to the strength and the courage that these young men have. The win is coming. I don’t know when, and that’s the hard part about it. You have to put in work, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get instant gratification or instant success. We felt like we had a chance tonight, we felt like we put ourselves with an opportunity to win, and they made a couple more plays than we did. We talked about taking ownership and we’ve got to come to work next week with a purpose. I believe our kids will do that—they’re a resilient group and we sure like what they’re doing, we like the character of those young men and we are excited.”
Hillcrest coach Beckham thinks Waynesville is the best 0-3 team in the area.
“Sometimes to win games like this, you’ve got to have a little bit of luck,” said Beckham. “We’re pretty evenly matched, the scoreboard could have gone either way. We just got fortunate and made a play. Waynesville, they’ve lost three tough games, they’ve been right in it to the end, nobody better take them lightly. They are well coached, the kids played hard. We’re very fortunate to get a win.”
Waynesville 34, Hillcrest 42
Waynesville 7- 20 – 0- 7 34
Hillcrest 12- 8 – 16 – 8 42
Waynesville—David Adams, Jr. 4-yard TD pass from Braden Drehle (PAT good)
Hillcrest—Blake Hanna 70-yard KO return (PAT no good)
Hillcrest—Malik Starks 4-yard TD pass from Haden Parton (PAT no good)
Hillcrest—Dion Davis 25-yard TD pass from Parton (2 pt. conv. good)
Waynesville—Tahje Parrish 37-yard TD pass from Drehle (PAT good)
Waynesville—Aarron Emperato 41-yard TD pass from Drehle (PAT good)
Waynesville—Adams 20-yard TD run (PAT no good)
Hillcrest—Starks 39-yard TD run (2 pt. conv. good)
Hillcrest—Starks 48-yard TD run (2 pt. conv. good)
Hillcrest—Josh Powell 59-yard TD pass (2 pt. conv. good)
Waynesville–?? 15-yard TD run (PAT good)