In the end, Creekside’s talent, smart coaching and heart of a champion could not overcome an uncharacteristically undisciplined performance.
Neighborhood rival Langston Hughes (2-0) – a squad with just as much talent, ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAAA – used a stingy defense and opportune offense to build a 21-0 lead and then withstood a furious rally by Creekside to claim a 21-20 win in the Panther Pit at Langston Hughes Stadium in Fairburn.
Trailing 21-0 late in the third quarter, Creekside (1-1), the defending Class AAAAA champions, ranked No. 1 this week, began its comeback. With the offense clearly missing AJC/GHSFD Super 11 receiver Jayson Stanley (committed to UGA) – as Seminole wide outs dropped several passes – the offensive coaching staff began calling various screen passes to jump start the aerial attack.
The strategy worked and Creekside went on a 70-yard drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Felix Harper to running back Julian Gibbs to cut the Panther lead to 21-7 at the start of the fourth quarter.
On the Seminoles’ next drive a 56-yard screen pass from Harper to Joseph Perkinson helped set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Gibbs to pull Creekside to within a touchdown at 21-14 with 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
Then with a little over two minutes left to play, Creekside recovered a fumble at the Hughes 30-yard line. The Seminoles took just four plays to hit pay dirt, as Bricen Terry bulled in from 2-yards out with 1:45 to go. But Creekside was called for un-sportsmanlike conduct on the play, forcing Chizco Alejandre to attempt a 35-yard extra point kick. It sailed wide left to keep the score at 21-20.
Creekside got the ball back at its 27-yard line, but could get no closer than midfield before Harper’s fourth-down pass attempt to Perkinson sailed high over his head, to preserve the win for Hughes.
Midway through the first quarter the Panthers struck first. Sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green engineered a 10-play, 65-yard drive that fellow 10th grader Demetrius Whitmore punctuated with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead the extra point kick by Fernando Sdelamora, another sophomore.
Both defenses led the way for most of the first half. But Hughes was able to sustain drives a little longer, and a punt late in the second quarter forced a struggling Creekside offense to start from its own 20-yard line.
The Panther defense forced a three-and-out, and after the Seminoles punted, Hughes took over on its own 43-yard line with a little over two minutes left in the first half. Senior running back DeFunda McCrary got going, picking up 16 yards on the first three plays of the drive. Those runs set up a play-action pass from Green to Monavious Atkinson for 31 yards to the Seminoles’ 9-yard line. After an illegal procedure penalty and a short run by Green, he and Atkinson hooked up for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put the Panthers up 14-0 at halftime.