No. 3: Durham Hillside football stocked with talent

CorrespondentAugust 9, 2012 

PREPHILLSIDE02.SP.091611.CCS

Hillside High's Khris (cq) Francis (21) fights for yardage against Southern's Trey Lucas (22) and Legrande Harley (5) during first half action in the Hillside vs Southern Durham preps football game at Southern HS in Durham, N.C. on Sept. 16, 2011.

CHRIS SEWARD — 2011 News & Observer file photo

  • More information N&O preseason football rankings (2011 record) 1. Aug. 11 2. Aug. 11 3. Durham Hillside; 11-2 4. Wakefield; 9-3 5. Middle Creek; 10-4 6. Wake Forest-Rolesville; 13-3 7. Cleveland; 11-4 8. Southeast Raleigh; 9-3 9. Fuquay-Varina; 10-2 10. Cardinal Gibbons; 11-2 11. Chapel Hill; 10-3 12. Cary; 9-3 13. Erwin Triton; 10-2 14. West Johnston; 7-4 15. Clayton; 5-7 16. Panther Creek; 8-4 17. Broughton; 5-6 18. Bunn; 9-4 19. Southern Durham; 7-4 20. Knightdale; 4-6

— The Durham Hillside football story is familiar. The Hornets graduate a plethora of senior football players, many whom receive college scholarships. Then the teams goes on to win another PAC-6 championship anyway.

This season is shaping up in a similar fashion.

The Hornets graduated 24 seniors last spring, but had more than 160 candidates on the first day of football practice. The Hornets have plenty of talent, coach Antonio King said, so much that he wishes he could field three teams – a varsity, a JV squad and a freshman team.

It’s no surprise that Hillside is again favored to win the PAC-Six title and make a run at its second state title in the last three years.

Not even the loss of Alabama recruit Josh McNeill, the No. 4-ranked tight end in the nation, could dampen King’s enthusiasm. McNeill graduated this summer and is expected to attend New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy for a post-grad season this fall.

“He only played one year with us, but we kind of knew,” King said. “Jav (Javien Knight) was the starter and all-conference, and he has what college coaches like. Josh has been a great asset for us but life goes on.”

Last year, the Hornets were 6-0 in their conference schedule, winning by an average margin of 32.5 points per game. Hillside finished 11-2, losing in the state semifinals to eventual 4A state champion Scotland County. This year, 27 seniors are back with a class that has a cumulative record of 36-6 over the past three years.

North Carolina recruit Khris Francis ran for 2,300 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2011. Senior defensive back Korrin Wiggins, who will also attend UNC next year, recently attended a Nike 150 camp, which recognizes the top 150 seniors in the nation.

Junior running back Donte Thomas-Williams has recruiting offers from five Division I schools, including North Carolina, N.C. State and Florida. Wide receiver Trevion Thompson is also getting national looks. But the main man everyone will be looking at is new starting quarterback Cinco Simmons, who replaces departing senior Collyn Anderson.

“We’ve got guys that’s battle tested and who got a taste of the state championship record, and now it’s their turn to lead now,” said King, a Hillside and N.C. Central alum. “I think we have done a great job putting leaders before them, so they kind of know their place but hopefully they will not put too much pressure on themselves.”

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