Former N.C. State and Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz has a favorite anecdote: “I lose one game and end up No. 2 in the country, and I’m called ‘an idiot.’ A medical student finishes last in his class, and everyone calls him ‘doctor.’”
Hillside football coach Antonio King can relate.
King has never failed to lead his Hornets to the state playoffs, and he coached an undefeated Hillside team to a state championship in 2010. But, to hear him tell it, he is chagrined because Hillside lost five times last year.
“Losing five games by 25 points ... that’s the biggest thing,” King said. “I couldn’t get the best out of all of them. That was a coaching job. I take that real personal, and I won’t let that happen again.”
King calls Hillside’s 10-4 finish in 2014 a “disappointment.”
It included the most losses by any team he’s coached, but the Hornets still managed to win the PAC-6 crown for a fifth straight year and reached the third round of the 4A state playoffs.
Hillside has enjoyed nine consecutive winning seasons and hasn’t missed a postseason since 2005, when it finished 4-7.
“The crew that we had ‘got it’ too late,” King said. “There were a lot of other things that I had issues with, but once they became a unit, they saw what we were capable of. I just think some of the things we did early came back to bite us.”
Something that really irritated King last season year were two losses to New Bern, in the season’s first game (12-0) and in Hillside’s last of 2014 (by a 13-7 score). Undefeated New Bern won the 4A state championship last year.
“I really think we should have beaten New Bern the second time around,” King said. “We had a team last year that could have played for the state championship.”
As it’s done for the past five years, Hillside opens its 2015 season Aug. 21 at New Bern.
Don’t be deceived by King’s harsh critique of himself, or by the fact that Hillside graduated 15 senior lettermen who signed with college programs. He likes this season’s team.
“I don’t want to say I’m loaded, but I’ve got something to fight with,” King said.
Expected team strength: Defense.
Question mark: Can the Hornets gel early?
Contributors:LB Aaron McCullough, LB Traevon Hayes, DB Najee Reams, DB Koby Scotton, OL Jaylen Laws, RB Jamaal Currie-Elliott, WR Marcus Krah, WR Daeshawn Stevens, QB Chancey Caldwell, DB Ridge Ford (Green Hope transfer).
Player they’ll miss the most: OL Emanuel McGirt. The N.C. State recruit was the crown jewel of last year’s 15 college signees.
The number: 33 – straight wins in the PAC-6.
Quotable: King: “A lot of guys got a bunch of playing time within the system, but it’s just going to be their turn to be ‘the man.’ Got to step up and do that now.”
Game to watch: Aug. 28 at Southern Durham. Six of the last seven games in the series have been decided by single digits.
Past 5 seasons
2014: 10-4, 5-0 (4A 3rd round)
2013: 9-3, 5-0 (4A 2nd round)
2012: 8-3, 6-0 (4A 1st round)
2011: 11-2, 6-0 (4A 3rd round)
2010: 15-0, 6-0 (4A state champion)