By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
If you were wondering how much this victory mattered to the Hillcrest community, all you would have to do is find Josh Powell.
The Hillcrest senior, symbolic broom in hand and a smile across his face, was relieved that he and his teammates had a new Kickapoo game to remember.
“When I was a freshman in 2014, we lost a big lead (to Kickapoo) and ended up losing in overtime,” Powell said. “It left a hole in my heart, even though I was a freshman and only got one play in that game.”
Powell had a big role in Friday night’s 46-19 home win against Kickapoo, scoring two touchdowns, but he wasn’t alone.
Quarterback Haden Parton was 9-for-17 for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Bruising sophomore running back Dion Davis had a breakout game with 147 yards and two scores on 21 carries.
The Hornets dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring Kickapoo 24-6.
“It means a lot to our kids,” said John Beckham, following his first-ever victory against Kickapoo as Hillcrest’s head coach. “It’s a good win for us.”
The outcome gives Hillcrest its first win over Kickapoo since 2007, although that stat is a bit misleading. Due to the previous district format, the two Springfield schools didn’t always play each season during the 10-year span.
Still, consider it a south-side sweep for the north-siders. Hillcrest beat Glendale earlier this season, and a win next week at Parkview would give Hillcrest the unofficial city championship.
“It’s a school rivalry thing,” Parton said. “Every time we play (Kickapoo), there’s usually a bigger crowd. We’re typically not picked to win.”
Parton executed one of the game’s decisive plays early in the third quarter, after Kickapoo had pulled within 14-13.
On 4th down and the Hornets in punt formation, Parton ran for a first down to keep the Hillcrest drive alive.
Three plays later, Davis ripped off a 30-yard touchdown run. The ensuing two-point conversion put the Hornets up 22-13, and Kickapoo never got within a single possession again.
“We gotta play with a chip on our shoulders,” Powell said. “It starts with our pride.”
Chiefs running back Dalton Coates had 147 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, but the Hornets otherwise held Kickapoo’s offense in check.
The 19 points are the fewest Hillcrest has allowed this season. Coming into Friday night, Kickapoo (1-5 overall) had scored 29 or more points in three games.
“I was concerned going in,” Beckham said. “I didn’t know if we could match them score-for-score because, offensively, sometimes we’re going and sometimes we’re not. Tonight, things worked well.
“I think the defense tonight played better than it’s played all year. We let up some big plays here and there, but for the most part, we contained Kickapoo.”
Following Davis’ score, Kickapoo went three and out.
The Hornets then drove 56 yards in 14 plays, chewing up about seven minutes of game time, and capped the scoring drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch by Samson Cochran to go up 30-13.
The Hornets had a similar clock-chewing drive in the second quarter. That drive, covering 59 yards in 14 plays, culminated in a spectacular 8-yard touchdown pass from Parton to Laterrian Jarman.
The touchdown gave Hillcrest a 14-7 halftime lead.
“I felt the pressure coming, so I did a spin move and was going near the sidelines and Laterrian was going to the back corner and he was open,” Parton said. “I just tried to put the ball up for him to make a play.”
Hillcrest punted only once in the game – on its opening drive – and put the game away in the second half by wearing out the Kickapoo defense with its sophomore running back, Davis.
“Dion Davis has picked up the slack,” Beckham said. “He’s a player I’ve been telling people about. When he figures out how good he can be, he’s going to be a really good football player.
“Right now, he’s still figuring it out. But tonight, I thought he played really, really well. He played his best game so far this season.”
Powell put an exclamation point on the win midway through the fourth quarter, taking a short kickoff back 70 yards to the house that put Hillcrest (3-3 overall) in control for good at 38-19.
“I’m so excited, I’m so glad we played with heart tonight,” Powell said. “I’m so proud of my team.”
Kickapoo hosts West Plains next Friday for homecoming.
Hillcrest 46, Kickapoo 19
Kickapoo 7 0 6 6 — 19
Hillcrest 8 6 8 24 — 46
Hillcrest – Powell 29 run (Cochran catch from Parton)
Kickapoo – King 46 catch from Auer (PAT good)
Hillcrest – Jarman 8 catch from Parton (run failed)
Kickapoo – Coates 43 run (kick failed)
Hillcrest – Davis 30 run (Jarman catch from Parton)
Hillcrest – Cochran 11 catch from Parton (Davis run)
Kickapoo – Coates 1 run (run failed)
Hillcrest – Powell 70 return (Ward catch from Parton)
Hillcrest – Davis 26 run (Davis catch from Parton)
STAT LEADERS (Unofficial)
Passing: Mason Auer 10-for-19 for 118 yards, 1 TD
Rushing: Dalton Coates 19 carriers for 148 yards, 2 TDs; Auer 6 carries for 40 yards; Adrian Davis 2 carries for 14 yards
Receiving: Travis King 1 catch for 46 yards, 1 TD; Ian Martus 2 catches for 25 yards; Austin Huston 3 catches for 16 yards
Passing: Haden Parton 9-for-17 for 120 yards, 2 TDs
Rushing: Dion Davis 21 carries for 147 yards, 2 TDs; Parton 5 carries for 25 yards; Josh Powell 9 carries for 47 yards, 1 TD; Malik Starks 4 carries for 13 yards
Receiving: Samson Cochran 2 catches for 41 yards, 1 TD; Laterrian Jarman 2 catches for 26 yards, 1 TD; Malik Starks 2 catches for 20 yards; Davis 1 catch for 17 yards