Creek Wood’s playoff run ended Friday night with a 28-20 loss to Lexington in the second round of the TSSAA playoffs.

The game couldn’t have started out much better than it did for Creek Wood as the Red Hawks took the opening possession and made their way down the field and scored, thanks to a 7-yard touchdown run by Michael Harris.

On the next possession, Creek Wood forced Lexington to a three-and-out after two consecutive tackles for loss.

The rest of the first quarter and the first eight minutes of the second quarter were quiet for both offenses, but Creek Wood’s defense suffered a loss as defensive lineman and center Sam England went down due to an injury. England did not return to the game.

With England’s departure on defense, Lexington got the run game going and found the end zone, thanks to Jordan Smith. Smith is a receiver by trade but played the quarterback position all evening. Smith and running back Isaiah McClain did all their damage on the ground, as Lexington did not attempt a pass throughout the entire game.

After Smith’s 22-yard rushing touchdown, Lexington tied the game at 7-7.

With England’s injury, Creek Wood had to turn to a backup center, and that played a factor, as well, throughout the rest of the second. Lexington attacked the A-gap with blitzes and forced Creek Wood to punt with two minutes remaining in the first half.

The Lexington offense went back to work with a short field and not much time remaining, but they didn’t need much time. McClain found the end zone with 58 seconds remaining to give Lexington a 14-7 lead just before half.

Creek Wood took possession of the ball, and quarterback Elijah Donaldson got one pass into the end zone, but the ball fell incomplete.

With the beginning of the second half, Creek Wood was lined up to kickoff, but the Red Hawks pulled off an onside kick to get the ball back.

With the momentum from the onside kick, Creek Wood traveled down the field, thanks to a third down conversion on a Donaldson throw to Raekwonn Nesbitt and a few strong runs by Harris.

Donaldson capped off the drive with a quarterback keeper around the right side of the offensive line, and Creek Wood tied the game again at 14-14.

Before the end of the third, McClain found the end zone once again for Lexington, and the Tigers retook the lead, 21-14. It was McClain’s second touchdown but not his last.

Early in the fourth, Creek Wood pulled another rabbit out of the hat with a fourth-down conversion, thanks to a fake punt.

Creek Wood’s offense ran off the field on fourth down but Donaldson, who is both the quarterback and punter, remained on the field. Freshman wide receiver Jamison Ford stayed on the field, as well, and Lexington didn’t see him. Donaldson took the snap and threw to the open receiver for a big gain and a much-needed first down.

Right after the play, Creek Wood’s offense got on the board again as Donaldson found a streaking Andrew Bruce for a 20-yard passing touchdown. Creek Wood attempted a two-point conversion but failed. Lexington held a 21-20 lead with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Lexington scored again less than two minutes later as McClain scampered into the end zone for the final score of the game. With the score, Lexington went ahead 28-20.

Creek Wood’s next possession ended quickly, and the Red Hawks punted the ball away. On Lexington’s first play, McClain made his first error of the evening. Creek Wood’s defense forced a fumble and recovered it around midfield, and the Red Hawks had the ball and some momentum.

The Creek Wood offense couldn’t get much going, and on fourth down, Lexington took possession after an interception.

The Creek Wood defense held its own, though, and forced Lexington to punt. With 2:17 remaining, Creek Wood had one final chance to score.

On first down, Lexington got a sack after a nicely timed blitz, and on second down, another blitz forced a quick throw. The ball went right into a Lexington defender’s arms and ended the drive.

Lexington took two more knees to burn the rest of the clock.

Lexington’s season will continue and the Tigers will face Hardin County on Friday in a quarterfinal matchup.

Creek Wood’s season ended. The Red Hawks went 10-2 on the season and 5-1 in the region. This was coach Houston Thiel’s fourth season leading the Red Hawks’ football program.

“You can be a proud coach in a loss,” Thiel said. “Obviously, we always want to come away with a win, but I’m really proud of these guys. They’ve fought to the end all year long, and that’s what they did tonight. That was a fun game. It would have been more fun if we won, but that’s what playoff football is all about; it’s what high school football is all about.”

This group of seniors was freshmen when Thiel took over the Creek Wood football program. With this Thiel’s first class he coached for all four years, he was heartbroken but also proud of his group.

“This group has really helped push the upward trajectory of this program,” Thiel said. “There are a lot of quality individuals in this group, obviously good football players, but some really good young men, as well.”

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