HILLDALE — But equal or greater credit offensively goes to the passing combination of receiver Bradley Campbell and quarterback Chandler Puckett. When nothing was going Hilldale’s way early on, Campbell broke clear past midfield and caught a pass from Puckett, taking it 80 yards to tie the game at 7.
In a similar play to start the second half, he was again on the end of a Puckett toss for 53 yards and a score to draw within a touchdown at 20-14. But it was a combination of catches that helped finish the Cardinals.
Puckett found him for 44 yards on a third-and-7 play to the Verdigris 33, but an illegal shift brought the ball back. On the very next play Puckett found him again for 19 yards and a first down at the Hornets’ 37. It also set up Cullom’s final touchdown gallop which came on the very next play.
“We knew they were stronger against the run but when Chandler got me on that first one I thought ‘man, we can throw on these guys all night,’” said Campbell. “When we got that one wiped out on the penalty, I went back and told him I wanted to do it again.”
Campbell had six catches for 219 yards and two scores. He also had a hand on defense with his interception at the Hornets’ 9 on the Cardinals’ next-to-last possession.
Verdigris ended its season at 10-2.
The Hornets had a negative 15 yards in the rushing totals in the first half, but much of that was due to a snap out of the shotgun that sailed over Puckett’s head on a second-and-four from the Verdigris 17 as the Hornets were threatening to go in front, tied at 7 at that point. The ball was recovered by the Cardinals’ Tanner Boles at the Verdigris 45, setting up Hanslovan’s 47-yard burst on fourth-and-2.
But in the end, Hilldale overcame adversity, and doubters.
“We’ve fought from behind and we’ve been there before this year. They just fought back again,” Hornets’ coach Chad Kirkhart said. “Nobody respects these guys. Everybody’s surprised we’re even in the playoffs and here we are in the third round.”