Durham Hillside suffered a 13-7 loss to New Bern on Friday in the third round of the 4A N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs at Caruso-Coates Stadium.
Hillside, seeded fifth, finished with a 9-5 record, but head coach Antonio King told his team in a lengthy postgame session how proud he was of their play. Hillside’s five losses this year were by a combined 26 points. Top-seeded New Bern remained unbeaten at 14-0.
“It was two great defensive teams on the field,” King said. “They made a couple of more plays than we did. We had a couple of opportunities at the end, but we needed a few more plays from our passing game.”
In a scoreless second half, Hillside forced a punt in the fourth quarter to get the ball back with 4:47 to play at its 18-yard line. On fourth-and-3, the Hornets managed one first down with a 4-yard reception by Raymond Green at the 29.
But two plays later Hillside was called for offensive pass interference to push the Hornets back to a second-and-25 at their 14. Hillside receiver Miles Kelly fell on the play at midfield, but the officials ruled he was the one who pushed off.
“I know we can’t say anything, but the flag came out late on that last pass interference call,” King said. “But we can’t let the game come down to a penalty.”
Although the game became a defensive struggle, both teams scored on their first possession.
New Bern converted a third-and-13 with a 43-yard pass completion from quarterback Mike Hughes to Craig Stokes. On fourth-and-8 at Hillside’s 18, Hughes ran up the middle on a quarterback draw for 16 yards. Two plays later he hit Daekown Gaston with a 1-yard touchdown toss.
Hillside scored when Daeshawn Stephens caught a 10-yard toss from Nas Forte-Ferguson on a slant with one-on-one coverage. He shook off a defender and raced untouched to complete a 52-yard touchdown to tie the game with 5:46 left in the first quarter.
Hillside’s touchdown was only the second allowed in the first quarter by the Bears this season.
New Bern took advantage of field position for a 13-7 halftime lead. Hillside was forced to punt from its 6-yard line, giving the Bears the ball at the Hornets’ 38. On second-and-10, Hughes hit Tyric McCarter in the end zone with a 38-yard touchdown pass.
“Coach King and his kids are a classy team,” said New Bern offensive coordinator Pat Whitford. “It was a hard-hitting game with no trash-talking. They gave us fits tonight.”