The PAC-6 4A Conference is still Hillside’s, and it can thank Jamal Currie-Elliott and 1 yard for that.
The junior returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with 0.4 seconds remaining to send the Hornets to a 41-35 victory over host Cardinal Gibbons. Gibbons, which had just taken the lead on a 2-yard run by Jack Biestek with 14.5 seconds left, had been kicking touchbacks for most of the night.
This one was angled perfectly to the corner, but just a little short, allowing Currie-Elliott to field it. In high school football, any kickoff into the end zone is an automatic touchback.
He maneuvered his way up the near sideline in front of a stunned Gibbons bench. The blocking paved the way for him, and the No. 7 Hornets (6-1, 2-0) won their 41st straight conference game, a streak dating back to 2009.
There were three touchdowns in the last 1 minute, 23 seconds as Cardinal Gibbons (6-1, 1-1) had a feverish comeback attempt after falling behind 34-22.
The Crusaders scored on a 29-yard pass from Anton Stoneking to Grayson Lemon at the 1:23 mark to make it 34-29.
They then recovered an onside-kick attempt and marched 43 yards in 10 plays – two fourth-down conversions including one by inches at the 2-yard line that set up Biestek’s run. Hillside thought they had stopped Dalen Spruill short and began to celebrate, but trotted back on the field with 20 seconds left.
Currie-Elliott, who was likely the reason N.C. State head football coach Dave Doeren was on the sideline for the first part of the contest, was the star of the game.
He ran 26 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns and also took a screen pass in for a 47-yard score.
The only two touchdowns not scored by him were two touchdown passes from Randy Trice to Caleb Harrington. They hooked up for a 28-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and an 18-yard pass in the third.
Hillside led 14-10 at halftime with Gibbons’ only scores coming on a 25-yard field goal by Riley Myer and a 1-yard plunge by Stoneking, which was set up by a dropped punt in the end zone. Amir Jones ran the ball back to the line of scrimmage, the 2-yard-line, and the Crusaders took over.
A 21-yard touchdown pass from Stoneking to Alex Kuzy – which he hauled in a tipped pass with one arm while getting a foot inbounds in the back of the end zone – cut the lead down to 21-16. On the next drive, a 17-yard pass from Stoneking to Biestek gave Gibbons a 22-21 lead.
That’s when Hillside first turned to Currie-Elliott for an answer, his screen pass for touchdown to make it 28-22 Hornets going into the fourth.
Currie-Elliott didn’t need a play call to get the last say.
And Hillside’s quest for yet another PAC-6 title is still alive.