Hillside's quest for perfection

Hornets use loss in 2008 playoffs as their motivational tool

Staff writerNovember 23, 2010 

Durham Hillside's quest for an undefeated season traces its birth to the 2008 playoffs when the Hornets were defeated by Fayetteville Byrd.

Hillside's players, including his year's seniors, thought they had won the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A Eastern championship game after blocking a 25-yard Byrd field goal in the closing seasons and seemingly protecting a 7-6 lead.

But a yellow flag ruined the ending. Hillside was called for roughing the center, who is protected by the rules because he is in a defenseless position after making a long snap.

Given a reprieve, Byrd kicked the winner for a 9-7 victory and ended the Hornets' 12-2-1 season.

Coach Antonio King was bitterly disappointed but afterward said the loss would be a motivation for the future. He said his team had missed opportunities to have the game in hand.

The disappointment would feed the Hornets' hunger.

The Byrd loss was in mind last spring when King met with the players returning from the 9-4 Hillside 2009 team that had been eliminated in the playoffs by Middle Creek, 24-19.

King asked those players what was their goal for the 2010 season.

"They asked me to research and find out what they would have to do to go undefeated," King said on Monday morning. "I looked into it and came back with the things they would have to do as far as dedication, practice and time.

"They talked about it and they decided, not me or the coaching staff, but they decided they wanted to do all the work it would take to have a chance of being undefeated."

Quarterback Vad Lee said earlier this season that the Byrd loss has been in the back of the players' minds all season.

"That has been our motivation all season," Lee said. "We remember that feeling, and we don't want to let it happen again."

Hillside has steamrolled every team in its path except for Southern Durham, which extended the Hornets before losing 13-12.

Other than that Piedmont Athletic 4-A thriller, Hillside has won each of its 13 games by at least 20 points.

"It is a very focused team," King said. "They celebrate a win until Saturday afternoon. Then you'll start seeing them extending e-mails about getting ready and getting focused on the next game."

Lee, a Georgia Tech football recruit, has rushed for 1,098 yards (11 yards per carry) and passed for 2,249 yards, despite playing in the fourth quarter of only two games all season.

"Vad has done a tremendous job," King said. "He has matured and does a great job running the offense. I think we have four or five players with at least 20 catches. He just finds the open man."

Early in the season when Lee's recruitment and offensive numbers were attracting attention, the Hillside defenders started calling themselves a bunch of guys with no names. Those nobodies are giving up only 9.5 points per game, and most of those points came against Hillside reserves during games well in hand.

The Hornets use a multiple four-front defense with Treshawn Council, an East Carolina recruit, Jamal Marcas, Anthony Talley and Ronald Thompson on the line. Wesley Dowdy and Lee Williams are the linebackers.

The cornerbacks are Aaron Krah and Kennan Stalls. The rover is Meyer Krah, with Christian Ballard and Korrin Wiggins in the secondary.

The Hornets play at their Russell Blunt Stadium on Friday night against Lee County, which upset Northern Durham 16-12 and Greensboro Dudley 28-12.

"Lee County went into Durham County Stadium and beat Northern Durham and then went to Dudley and beat them," King said. "Lee County has shown it can win on the road. We know it has a very good team."

tim.stevens@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8910

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