By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
After an up-and-down season, Hillcrest’s playoff chances fell one win short.
Kimball’s Devodrick Johnson rushed for three touchdowns to lead the Knights past Hillcrest 41-14 at Sprague Stadium on Friday in a game that decided the fourth and final postseason berth from District 11-5A.
The Panthers (4-6) came into the contest riding a two-game winning streak with an offense that averaged 40 points per game during that span combined with a defense playing with a renewed spark.
“We came in tonight confident and liked our chances,” said Hillcrest head coach Andy Todd. “It was anyone’s game going into the final quarter. Kimball executed better in the fourth.”
Kimball (3-7) took just three plays on the game’s opening drive to jump out 7-0 on Johnson’s first score, a 29-yard burst up the middle.
The Knights got the ball back in favorable field position after forcing Hillcrest to punt from its own end zone, and three plays later took a 14-0 lead on Johnson’s 19-yard touchdown run.
Hillcrest threw an interception on the Panthers’ ensuing possession, but Hillcrest’s defense came alive and forced a three-and-out. The stop seemed to awaken the offense, too.
Starting from their own 32-yard line, the Panthers used a 12-play, 78-yard drive to cut the Kimball lead to 14-7 when Trevon Dawson plunged in from the 2-yard line just before halftime.
Dawson, a junior, finished with 99 all-purpose yards and scored both touchdowns for Hillcrest.
“We felt like we had new life in the locker room at intermission,” said Todd. “We had the ball first to open the second half and the momentum.”
The Panthers maintained that momentum late into the third quarter, when Dawson took a handoff at midfield and raced untouched 50 yards for his second touchdown to reduce Kimball’s lead to 21-14. But Hillcrest never got any closer.
Kimball’s Odyssey Keeling hit paydirt on a 57-yard run with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, and the Panthers scored 13 more unanswered points in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Hillcrest quarterback Eddie Lwate, also just a junior, threw for 62 yards on seven completions and also rushed for 30 yards.
“We got better as the season wore on, and we have lots to look forward to next season,” said Todd. “I liked how we finished the season on a high note, despite tonight’s outcome.”