CRESWELL – Last season the Creswell Bulldogs football team marched into rival Pleasant Hill’s home and won 14-7 in a rain-soaked rivalry win. This season the Billies returned the favor, winning 27-14 at Creswell last Friday night – eliminating Creswell from playoff contention while keeping their postseason hopes alive with their 4th win of the season.
“Rivalry wins are always fun, and so special for the kids just being in two small towns. I’m super happy for our kids,” said Pleasant Hill head coach Jeremiah Heacock, who claimed his first win in the rivalry series in his second year at the helm.
Pleasant Hill’s defense had struggled of late, giving up an average of almost 35 points a game during a four-game stretch – one where the Billies went 1-3. The defense stepped up in the first half though, forcing four first-half turnovers.
After an early interception returned for a touchdown by senior linebacker Ricky Pulido, senior defensive lineman Dominic Duckett then scooped up a fumble and returned it 10 yards for a score, putting Pleasant Hill up 13-6 at the half.
“We challenged the defense this week to be the one that sparked a fire for us, because we haven’t had that for a few weeks,” Heacock said. “We’ve kind of given up some scores early and we were flat, so we challenged them just to give us a spark and they did it.”
Pleasant Hill’s offense scored 14 points from two Jacob Neely touchdown passes – a 40-yarder to Brody Baker and a 43-yarder to Kaeden Howes that put the Billies up 27-12 with 7 minutes left in the game.
Heacock said he had the same message at halftime – but this time for the offense. “It was the exact thing that I told the defense before the game. We need a spark from the offense now,” Heacock said. “Offense, you got to get us going, you have to drive down the field, sustain blocks, and they rose to the challenge. I’m super proud of them for responding to that.”
Neely finished 9-of-20 passing for 204 yards, and 2 touchdowns. A strong performance for a quarterback who started the season as Pleasant Hill’s third-string quarterback.
“He means a lot. He plays hard, he’s super positive, and he doesn’t get down,” Heacock said. “Playing quarterback is a tough position, especially being thrown into it late, and he’s never gotten down on himself or quit on himself. Super proud of him to compete so hard, and he inspires the guys even when things aren’t going well.”
The win for Pleasant Hill ended Creswell’s chances at a postseason berth as the Bulldogs dropped to 2-6 on the season. The 13 points allowed off turnovers ended up being the difference in the game.
“It’s really frustrating. We hurt ourselves real bad on the two big ones that both scored touchdowns,” said Creswell head coach Scott Worsham. “It could’ve easily been 6-0 for us at halftime; that kind of ended up being the difference in the game – two scores.”
Despite the loss, Worhsam looks to finish the season on a high note against La Pine in the team’s Senior Night.
“I’m hoping that our guys come back and work hard. I want our seniors to finish this season as strong as they can and end on a good note next week,” Worsham said. “We’re looking forward to the future, and excited to see which guys really show up next week by putting in the time and energy.”
Pleasant Hill also is looking forward to next week, as it has a chance to win its way into the postseason against 4-4 Siuslaw.
“We have to continue to go back to work with that same intensity that we did last week,” Heacock said. “Last week was a good week for us, so we have to come back to that same intensity.”
Pleasant Hill: Jacob Neely, 9-of-20, 204 yards, 2 TDs, 30 yards rushing; Kaeden Howes and Brody Baker, 1 TD each. Ricky Pulido 1 INT for TD, 1 FF.
Creswell: Darien Dewey, 25-of-44, 205 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; Jaydon Warthen, 14 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD, 1 rushing TD; Cayden Cox 2 blocked punts.