Hillside’s nine-game win streak came to a lamentable end, with enough mistakes piling up to give a 52-15 victory to host New Hanover in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East semifinals Friday night.
The loss means third-seeded Hillside – PAC-6 Conference champions in six straight seasons – will go another year looking for a trip to the eastern finals, a game that has eluded them since the Hornets won the 4A state championship in 2010.
Hillside continued a tradition of conference dominance, picking up 10 wins in a year that coach Antonio King coined as one to “rebuild.”
“We had a lot of newcomers on both sides of the ball,” King said. “I hate to use the term rebuild, but this was a rebuilding year for us, and making it to where we made it – with a new quarterback, with new starting linemen, eight new starters on defense – we did OK by our standards. We did great by some other people’s standards, but we set the bar high.”
Penalties kept the Hornets (10-3) from taking momentum early on as Abdul Adams’ 79-yard touchdown run came back due to a block in the back. A facemask penalty on Hillside during New Hanover’s (12-2) opening possession set up a three-yard rushing score by Tre’ Age.
“The second play of the game, we broke the big touchdown run that got called back,” King said. “We were just out of bearings ever since.”
Ridge Ford, a senior, was thankful for the experience and knowledge he gained under King.
“Coach prepared me to play college football,” Ford said. “Coach King made a great welcome, made me a brother and taught me everything I needed. I hate that we came up short... but I’m glad I came here and lost as a Hornet.”
The Hillside offense came to life on its third possession of the night, as Marcus Krah took the kickoff 57 yards and reeled in a 41-yard strike from Chauncey Caldwell to narrow the Wildcats’ lead to 10-7.
Krah finished the night with four receptions for 96 yards.
New Hanover’s offense ran wild against a Hillside defense that had conceded double-digit points only once since Sept. 11.
Age brought his touchdown total to three by finishing off consecutive drives of 80 and 63 yards in the second quarter, sending the Wildcats into halftime with a 24-7 lead.
Age wasn’t done, as he took his longest run of the night 19 yards for his fourth touchdown to open up the second half.
Mistakes continued to hurt the Hornets, as a shanked punt and fumble in New Hanover territory lead to touchdown runs from Javeon Hall and North Carolina recruit Garrett Walston.
The Wildcats ran it up on a 44-yard reverse pass trick play with just over seven minutes that gave New Hanover a 52-7 lead, its largest of the night.
Jamal Currie-Elliott picked up his 10th touchdown of the year, barreling up the middle for an eight-yard score that closed the final scoreline to 52-15 late in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets couldn’t find N.C. State recruit Daeshawn Stephens, who led the team with 12 receiving touchdowns entering the night. He had zero catches and only one target.
“We were kinda limited with (what we) would call to him,” King said. “He gutted it up and went the best he could, but we were limited in what we would try to get to him.”