Hillcrest’s Season Ended by Saraland Scoring Stampede
There was no party on Patriot Parkway Friday night as the Saraland Spartans ran away with their second round playoff matchup against the Hillcrest Patriots. The Patriots made things close in the third quarter, but never took a lead at all.
Saraland got the scoring going on the very first play from scrimmage with a 68-yard bomb to Ryan "Hollywood" Williams.
When the Patriots got their turn on offense, they had excellent field possession and moved the ball quickly, but Bryson Kimbrough put a ball just behind Jamarcus Prince, who fell down coming back to the ball, resulting in an interception.
On the ensuing possession, the Spartans drove down the field methodically on a combination of short throws, outside runs, and draws up the middle. When the Patriots finally stopped them on third down, Saraland responded by running a fake field goal that saw holder Rodney Smith pass the ball to kicker Hunter Kirkland. Kirkland ran all the way in for the touchdown from 15 yards out.
Hillcrest found a spark on its next possession and worked their way down to the 6-yard line before senior running back Ja'marian Johnson punched it into the end zone. The game was Johnson's first since having tightrope ankle surgery following a high ankle sprain in Hillcrest's regular season finale.
Immediately following the touchdown, Saraland took the top off again as Karle Lacey, Jr. found Williams again. This time, it was an 84-yard competition for six.
Being down 21-7, Hillcrest had to answer quickly and did just that. After the first play of the drive, Kimbrough hit Prince deep and he took it all the way to the house for a 58-yard touchdown.
Saraland took the ball right down the field again on their next possession. This time, they chewed more time off the clock and capped the drive off with a 45-yard touchdown run from Williams, his third all-purpose touchdown of the evening.
Hillcrest then moved the ball down to the goalie, but failed to punch it in on three rushing attempts in a row from Kimbrough. The Patriots settled for a 23-yard field goal off the foot of Lyndon Dempsey to make the score 28-17.
Following the kickoff, Saraland hit the Patriots with another game-breaking touchdown. This time, Lacey found Brooks Womble for a 65-yard score to make it 35-17. Hillcrest fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but mistakes by Saraland and stout defense from the Patriots forced the Spartans into a third and 26 situation which they failed to convert.
After a Hillcrest punt set the Spartans up at the Patriot 23-yard line, Lacey pitched the ball to Williams who hit Carson Gill in the back corner of the end zone for another touchdown. At halftime the score was 42-17.
Hillcrest opened the second half with the ball and found the end zone within four snaps. Kimbrough got the ball to his tight end, Jackson Henderson, for an 18-yard touchdown, cutting the Spartan lead to 42-24.
Whatever defensive adjustments Hillcrest made at halftime paid off in the early part of the second half because they did an excellent job of eliminating Williams and shutting down the Saraland rush attack. After punting the ball back to the Patriots, the Spartans intercepted Kimbrough, but failed to do anything with the opportunity.
The Patriots returned the ensuing punt deep into Saraland territory. With the help of a personal foul flag, they started their drive at the Spartan 11. Three snaps later, Johnson was in the end zone for his second score of the day, cutting the Spartan lead to 42-31, the closest the game would be all night.
Williams ran the ball in for Saraland's first score of the second half from just two yards out. After a a Hillcrest fumble, he hauled in another touchdown pass, bringing the game to its final score of 56-31 and Williams' touchdown total on the day to six.
The number one standout player from the game was Alabama class of 2025 commit and five star prospect Williams. He accounted for six total touchdowns and 346 all-purpose yards in the victory.
After the game, Saraland head coach Jeff Kelly sang Williams' praises.
"He's one of the best practice players we got. He works like that, so he grows with the grind. He grinds every day and he gets better," said Kelly.
On the team as a whole, Williams was highly complimentary of his squad.
"This is this mature football team as I've ever been a part of. Just a consistency that they come to work with every day, a lot of distractions this week, but our guys just showed great maturity and how they prepared," said Kelly. "They knew it was gonna be a tough challenge, we were playing an excellent football team. Got a ton of respect for Hillcrest, what Coach Mitchell's done here. But I just felt like, you know, our guys came out and competed their tail off. We got some really good football players. If there's a better player than Ryan Williams in this state, possibly the country in this class, I'd like to see him, he put on the show tonight."
Although Hillcrest head coach Jamie Mitchell was disappointed in his team's performance, he spoke very highly of Saraland's talented offense.
"Sometimes you just gotta tip your hat and they were a lot better tonight on offense," said Mitchell.
"He's better than our players," said Mitchell on Williams. "About all I could tell you. He was better than what we had out there and we just didn't have an answer."