“Before we came out here, one of our motivations was trying to rebuild history,” senior linebacker Jack Francis said before joining the jubilant postgame huddle. “Hylton used to be a big powerhouse. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been trying to build that back. This year, it’s finally the year that it’s finally here.”
In the first half, Bulldogs junior quarterback Travon McMillian ran for a 26-yard touchdown and threw for a 48-yard score to junior Terrin Allen-Neal. Senior Josh Ronan-Redfearn, who later left the game with what Coach Tony Lilly said was a minor calf injury, ripped off an 81-yard run for the third touchdown in the first half.
Hylton (10-2) outgained Stafford County school Colonial Forge, 327-30, in the first half but could not put the Eagles (10-3) away even though Colonial Forge was playing with its backup quarterback. Junior Malik Shabazz was filling in for junior Damon Daniel, who got hurt in the region semifinal win over Stonewall Jackson.
Colonial Forge junior Jeff Moore intercepted McMillian (162 passing yards, 50 rushing) to give his team possession at the Hylton 11 midway through the fourth quarter and two plays later senior Richie Nicolas scored on a sweep that made it 23-13.
Hylton senior Garrett Wooding intercepted the two-point conversion pass to maintain a two-possession lead, and junior teammate Lawrence Hunt picked off a pass with just more than two minutes to play.
Colonial Forge, which managed 135 yards of offense, dropped to 0-4 in region finals. Its coach, Bill Brown, guided Hylton to its first five region titles.
Hylton advances to the state semifinals next weekend to play at Ocean Lakes, a 14-10 winner over Oscar Smith in the Eastern Region championship Friday night. Ocean Lakes (13-0) won its first region title.
“The senior class has been through this in the playoffs the last couple years, and they’ve had to swallow the disappointment of losing in the playoffs,” Lilly said. “That preparation has been good throughout the year.”
And he’s banking on it being sharp in the upcoming week. Lilly waved the championship trophy at the postgame huddle and asked, “Are you satisfied with this?” No, the players said in unison.
Remarked one: “I can’t put it on my finger, Coach.”