Isaac Marsh got a first look at his team against an actual opponent Thursday night at Hillside. He and his Tigers also got a good look at Abdul Adams.
Chapel Hill and the Hornets held a two-hour scrimmage as a preseason kickoff to the high school football season that begins Aug. 21.
The teams ran a controlled scrimmage for the first 30 minutes before running a regular 30-minute game in the final period.
Hillside won both periods, scoring two touchdowns in the first and three touchdowns in the second, including a last-second TD to end the “game.”
While the Tigers moved the ball well against the Hornets early on, Marsh didn’t like what he saw in the latter half.
“Their body language, that was the key,” he said. “But that falls on me to get the players adjusted to the system. We have a young squad and we’re still missing some pieces, but they did a good job of moving the ball well during the controlled scrimmage; they just couldn’t get the ball across the goal line.
Chapel Hill’s starting quarterback Connor Stough did not play due to a pulled hamstring. Backups Caleb Colson and Alec Stough alternated on downs.
The Hornets, meanwhile, introduced newcomer and Michigan State recruit Abdul Adams to the crowd in Blount Stadium. Adams rushed for 89 yards and two TDs, and thrilled the home crowd with his twisting moves and speed.
Adams adds to Hillside’s deep talent pool that alrady has running back Jamaal Curry-Elliott and wide receivers Marcus Krah and N.C. State recruit Daeshawn Stevens.
“The main thing was to come out of this game healthy,” Hillside coach Antonio King said. “We have some stiff competition to prepare for.”
The Tigers open their season at Riverside, while the Hornets travel to New Bern. Despite the PAC-6 4A being the bigger brother, the Big 8 Conference had a winning record in head-to-head matchups last season.
With Southern Durham winning the 3AA championship in 2013, and Orange and Cardinal Gibbons also having successful seasons, the Big 8 has taken hold of the bragging rights department.
“It is a tough, tough conference,” Marsh said. “We have a young team that we have to bring together to weather the storm. That’s where our veteran guys come into play, to take the younger guys under their wings and show them the ropes.”
It’s been almost nine months since the Tigers upset Southern in the third round of the state playoffs. But folks haven’t forgotten. Chapel Hill is ranked over Southern in the preseason standings, which didn’t sit too well with Southern coach Darius Robinson.
“I told the guys to use that as motivation,” he said. “We lose one game in almost two years and they rank us lower. That’s our bulletin-board material.”
Marsh said the absence of Cardinal Gibbons wouldn’t diminish the toughness of the conference. But the Crusaders have something he wants.
“Cardinal Gibbons is who we want to model our program after. They are a disciplined program, and that is what we want,” he said.