PLEASANT HILL – It was a messy opening night for the Pleasant Hill Billies and Cottage Grove Lions football teams. In a game that had almost as many penalties as points, Pleasant Hill came out on top 20-7.
“There was definitely a bit of nervousness, but I liked the fact that our kids just kept playing. We didn’t melt down, even though with all the mistakes it would have been easy just to kind of give up,” Pleasant Hill coach Jeremiah Heacock said. “They just kept playing. They kept their heads up. So I’m proud of them for that. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but we picked it up in the second half.”
The nervousness and early season rust was evident on both sides as Cottage Grove finished with 16 penalties and Pleasant Hill had six. The first half was especially messy, though, with multiple possessions going backward on both sides.
Just as it seemed the first half would be scoreless, Pleasant Hill running back Braedon Hazel took a sweep right and raced 53 yards for the touchdown to put the Billies up 6-0 with 3:26 in the half. Hazel finished with 13 carries for 95 yards and a score in the win.
“That was super important. Braeden is a very energetic guy, and that was a huge spark for us. We really needed that,” Heacock said. “And the linemen blocked that really well.”
That scoreline remained for the final three minutes and the Billies went into halftime with the lead, and the momentum. Pleasant Hill really got things going in the second half.
“We just wanted to get that message across that we’re up 6-0, so let’s just go out and finish it,” Heacock said. “We wanted to go out there with some positivity and some confidence, but just knowing that if we go out and play hard, we can finish it out. So they were excited to do that.”
Sophomore Jacob Neely, one of Pleasant Hill’s most dangerous players in space, took the second-half opening kickoff 85 yards for the score. Tack on a successful two-point conversion, and the Billies were up 14-0.
“He’s dangerous in space. We’ve been working on that for a long time, just to get our guys the ball in space,” Heacock said. “And I was really proud to see the other 10 guys block their guys the way they were supposed to, and Jacob found that seam. He brings that energy and just the ability to make a big play, which is huge for us.”
Pleasant Hill starting QB Steven Bounds hurt his knee on the return and didn’t return in the game.
Once Neely gave the Billies a two-score lead, their defense continued stuffing Cottage Grove. The Lions didn’t complete a pass all game and were 0-for-7 on fourth downs.
“I liked how our kids were flexible, they made adjustments. We didn’t see a wing-formation in the jamboree, so we weren’t ready for it. But our kids made adjustments, we coached them on the fly, and they really just worked their technique,” Heacock said.
Pleasant Hill scored again in the 3rd quarter when backup QB Jacody Hawkins scored on a 1-yard keeper after rushing for 17 yards on a key third down earlier in the drive.
PHHS: Braedon Hazel 13 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD; Jacob Neely 85-yard kickoff return for TD; Jacody Hawkins 18 yards rushing, 1 TD.
CGHS: Clayton DeWitt 28 carries, 113 yards, 1 TD; Gavin Grogan 14 carries, 49 yards