The game may have been cold, and Hillside may have arrived late and cold, but the Hornets heated up quickly to stun host Fayetteville Seventy-First 27-0 in the second round of 4A NCHSAA playoffs, Friday night.
The Hillside team bus arrived about 20 minutes before kickoff, but coach Antonio King declined any extra time offered for his team to warm up.
Fifth-seeded Hillside (9-4) relied on a couple quick strikes and its defense to take down undefeated fourth seed Seventy-First (12-1).
“We’re normally like that. These guys are ready to respond,” King said.
Hillside scored two touchdowns in a span of fifteen seconds in the second quarter that stunned the Seventy-First squad and crowd.
After a scoreless and sluggish first quarter, Hillside’s QB Nas Forte-Ferguson hit Marcus Krah on a deep post for a touchdown in the second quarter. Amir Jones extra-point gave Hillside a 7-0 lead with 9:42 left in the second quarter.
Then on the ensuing kickoff, the Hillside special teams forced a fumble and recovered at the Seventy-First 23-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Forte-Ferguson found a wide-open Jamal Elliott-Currie on a wheel route. Elliott-Currie raced to the end zone untouched. Jones’ extra point put the Hornets up 14-0 in a span of 15 seconds.
“That was huge. It let them know we were serious and came ready to play,” King said of the quick touchdowns.
The Hillside defense played large in the first half. The Hornets’ Gerald Wilkes Jr. intercepted Seventy First in the end zone. On the ensuing possession, Forte-Ferguson would pass to Donte Edwards up the middle. Edwards broke two tackles and raced to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown. The score put the Hornets up 21-0 late in the second quarter
Seventy-First would challenge again at the end of the half. The Falcons moved the ball down to the Hornets’ eight-yard line. Quarterback Jamal Jolliffe ran up the middle, was stopped at the goal line, spun to try and score when the ball was knocked loose and the Hillside defense recovered at its one-yard line with 25 seconds left in the half.
The Hillside defense didn’t cool down during the half either. Hillside recovered a Falcon fumble on their first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
Hillside forced six turnovers in the game, four fumbles and two interceptions.
The Hornets’ defense swarmed to the ball carrier shutting down a potent Falcon running game. The play at the line forced the Falcons to the air where they weren’t as affective.
“We wanted them to put the ball in the air, and it worked to our advantage,” King said.
Ricquaz Brannon scored the final touchdown with a 7-yard rush with 2:13 left in the game for the 27-0 win.
Hillside will travel to face No. 1 seeded, undefeated New Bern on Friday. It will be a rematch from the first game of the season that New Bern won 12-0.
“Words can’t explain how good it feels to be practicing on Thanksgiving,” Forte-Ferguson said.