That isn’t to say the Grizzlies (8-3) didn’t make of a game of it in the fourth quarter, when they put up 27 points.
“We had a couple of fumbles and did some stuff that is uncharacteristic,” Creekview coach Terry Crowder said. “There at the end, we had a chance. We have to give these kids credit. They fought and fought and we had a chance to win. Should have won probably.”
The Grizzlies remained winless in state playoff games, losing its fourth attempt since 2008.
Creekview fumbled away the ball in each of its first two possessions. One of them was on the East Paulding 9-yard line, when the Grizzlies were poised to score. Still, they ended the first half trailing only 10-6 after Isaiah Rodgers scored on a 3-yard run and Ben McClellan missed the point-after.
The Grizzlies received the opening kickoff for the second half, but quietly went three-and-out. They punted away each possession of the third quarter, while East Paulding (8-3) was able to pull away with a 27-yard field goal by Josh Klein — who also was good on a 40-yard attempt in the second quarter — and a 6-yard run by Tae Ray.
The Raiders pushed their lead to 27-6 early in the fourth quarter when Ray scored on a 61-yard run. He did most of the work for East Paulding, accounting for 259 rushing yards on 36 carries, while catching the ball once for a 20-yard gain.
Aside from Ray, the Raiders’ offense totaled just 40 rushing yards.
With the game seemingly out of reach and without their marching band to rally them, Creekview started chipping away at East Paulding’s lead.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Wilkie found Connor Dulmage for a series of passes in a drive that was finished with a 1-yard Wilkie run. McClellan’s point-after made it 27-13 with 7:31 remaining.
After the defense forced another punt, Wilkie and company went back to work. Chandler Wold and Rodgers caught passes to bring the Grizzlies to the goal line. From there, Rodgers punched it in to make the score 27-19.
An onside-kick attempt was recovered by East Paulding and Creekview paid for it. With a toss sweep to Ray, who sprinted for 53 yards, the Raiders extended their lead to 34-19.
Continuing to relay on the arm of Wilkie and, benefiting from a pass-interference call, the Grizzlies scored on a 3-yard pass to Dulmage. Creekview went for the 2-point conversion and failed, which left the score 34-25 in favor of the Raiders.
With the clock at 2:14, Creekview attempt another onside kick. This time, Dulmage came through with the recovery on the Raiders’ 46.
Once again with the benefit of a pass-interference call, the Grizzlies moved to the Raiders’ 11. From there, Wilkie found Wold across the middle for the touchdown. Creekview followed with a successful 2-point conversion and trailed 34-33 with 1:29 remaining.
Following yet another onside kick, East Paulding received the ball at midfield. Creekview forced the Raiders into third-and-3 with 27 seconds remaining and looked to get the ball back, but Ray broke through the middle for a gain that was good enough for the first down, essentially ending the game.
Crowder called the final touchdown by the Raiders the pivotal moment of the game.
“We got within reach, and they ran that toss sweep for a touchdown, and that kind of put a bite on it,” Crowder said. “That was kind of the turning point.”
Wilkie finished the game 19-for-33 passing for 322 yards. Dulmage caught nine passes for 139 yards.
The Grizzlies’ ground game was crippled. Rodgers led the team with 15 yards on 11 carries. The net rushing gain for the team was minus-9 yards.
Creekview, which had forced nearly three turnovers per game through the regular season, ended with just one — a fumble recovery by Dawson Ewers — against East Paulding.