Unfortunately, a playoff victory and an extension to his coaching career wasn’t meant to be, as the Grizzlies lost to Tucker 42-25 on Friday in the first-round Class AAAAA state playoff game at the Grizzly Den.
Though Creekview (9-2) managed to outscore Tucker (9-2) by a 21-14 margin in the second half, a dominant first-half display by the Tigers put the Grizzlies in a 28-3 hole that they could not overcome.
Tucker, the Class AAAA state champion last year, advanced to host North Paulding next week.
Down 35-3 midway through the third quarter, Creekview’s offense, which had been dormant for much of the game, finally seemed to come alive.
After quarterback Hayden Hall found wide receiver Hunter Udall on a 14-yard pass for their first touchdown of the game, the Grizzlies followed it up with a 2-yard run by Isaiah Rodgers to pull within 18.
Tucker running back Elijah Sullivan then ended the Grizzlies’ hopes of a comeback with a 68-yard touchdown run at the close of the third quarter.
But Creekview’s offense persisted, and Hall eventually found Udall in the end zone again, this time on an 18-yard pass with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Hall finished the game 13-for-25 with 161 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception.
Udall caught the majority of Hall’s passes, with 97 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns.
Morrell felt Tucker’s speed — which had been one of his greatest concerns before the game — proved to be Creekview’s undoing.
“I thought we matched up scheme-wise, but they got into the second and third level a couple of times, and we couldn’t match up with them as far as speed,” he said. “We made a few mistakes and had some turnovers as well. It was evident that they were the better football team (Friday).”
After taking the lead on its second possession of the game, after a 36-yard field goal from Connor Fraser, Creekview found itself down 14-3 less than 10 minutes later, thanks to touchdown runs from Tucker quarterback Juwaan Williams and running back Dominick Sanders.
After Williams and Sanders connected on a 52-yard touchdown pass, the game looked as if it may get out of hand.
Creekview, however, responded with the beginnings of what looked to be a promising drive before Connor Dulmage fumbled the ball as he charged forward for a first down.
The ball was scooped up by Tucker’s Davanta Reynolds, who returned it to Creekview’s 3-yard line, and three plays later, Dallas Rivers punched it in to give the Tigers a commanding lead.
Perhaps the highlight of the first half for the Grizzlies was a goal-line stand in which the Tigers were denied the end zone from the 2-yard line on four plays straight as the second quarter came to an end.
The momentum seemed to carry on to the second half, as the Grizzlies’ defense forced the Tigers to go three-and-out on their first possession.
However, on their first offensive play in the half, Hall couldn’t hang on to a high snap, and Tucker recovered its second fumble of the game.
Rivers scored from 3 yards out two plays later. He finished the game with 59 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns.
Morrell was retrospective after the game’s conclusion.
“It’s been a great, great career here at Creekview. I’m thankful to the community, the seniors and the football team,” said Morrell, a longtime assistant who ended his head-coaching career with a 48-25 record over eight varsity seasons. “It’s nice to go out at home. I just wish it would have lasted a little longer.”