DURHAM - After trailing in the first half against East Chapel Hill, Hillside pulled way in the second half to defeat the Wildcats 54-23 in a Piedmont Athletic Conference 4A game Friday at Russell Blount Stadium.
Hillside, ranked No. 9 in the News and Observer Poll, was 9-3 overall and 5-0 in the conference after claiming its sixth straight win. The Hornets close out the regular season next week against Northern Durham, which lost Friday at Southrn Durham.
A win over the Knights would give the Hornets the regular-season conference title, while a win by the Knights would create a three-way tie for first, with Northern, Hillside and Southern all at 5-1 in the PAC-6.
East Chapel Hill fell to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the PAC-6 with its third straight loss and its eighth straight loss to Hillside. The Wildcats host Roxboro Person (3-7, 2-3) this coming Friday, with both teams needing a win to qualify for the NCHASAA playoffs that begin the following week.
Friday at Hillside, the first half ended with the hosts ahead 20-17. The Hornets offense exploded in the second half, scoring on five of its six possessions.
We were focused on everything except for the football, said Hillside head coach Antonio King. Everything was not about football in the first half. We focused in on the second half and had a good spurt.
East Chapel Hill started freshman Connor Stough at quarterback and Stough responded by completing 28 of 39 passes, including touchdown throws to Jackson Boyer and Arkavius Parks.
The Wildcats balanced their short passing attack with a ground game led by tailback Colby Owens.
Hillside took a 6-0 lead midway through the first half on a seven-yard touchdown run by UNC recruit Khris Francis. With Stough completing all eight of his passes on the ensuing possession, East Chapel Hill answered by driving 71 yards on 13 plays, capped by Stoughs 1-yard strike on fourth-and-goal to Boyer.
The extra point by Kieran Sweeney gave the Wildcats a 7-6 lead early in the second period.
After Hillside scored on a touchdown pass from quarterback Cinco Simmons to tight end Jaiven Knight, the Wildcats responded with another scoring drive, helped by two pass-interference penalties. The second penalty set the Wildcats up at the Hillside 8 yard-line. From there, Owens plowed through the middle standing up for the touchdown, and Sweeneys extra point tied the score at 14 apiece with 3:13 left in the second period.
The Wildcats took the lead again after recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return. The Wildcats faced a fourth-and-short but settled for a 27-yard field goal by Sweeney for a 17-14 lead with 52 seconds left in the first half.
The Hornets were able to score before halftime by driving 80 yards on six plays. Simmons hit Weeks over the middle and Weeks raced to the pylon for the touchdown with 10.9 seconds left on the clock. The extra point kick banged off the upright, giving the Hornets a 20-17 lead at intermission.
The Hornets offense exploded in the second half, scoring on five of its six possessions.
The first touchdown of the second half came on a drive of 80 yards on seven plays. Francis carried the ball five times on the drive for 48 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run after Francis broke free between the tackles. Simmons kept the ball for the two-point conversion to give Hillside a 28-17 lead with 9:50 left in the third quarter.
Hillside took over on its own 10 yard-line after forcing an East Chapel Hill punt. On third-down and 12, Simmons scrambled on a pass play to break containment and raced 67 yards for a touchdown.
The two-point conversion attempt failed to give the Hornets a 34-17 lead with 5:35 left in the third period.
The Hornets defense forced East Chapel Hill to punt after three downs and took over at the Wildcat 44 yard-line. Simmons fired the ball deep down the sideline to Austin Weeks who hauled in the pass at the goal line for the touchdown. The extra point by Sean Fungai-Kashangura was good, giving the Hornets a 41-17 lead late in the third quarter.
The Hornets play only three seniors on offense and four on defense.
Once they put a whole game together they could be real scary, King said.
Elsewhere Friday, Chapel Hill earned a 21-0 win at Southern Vance; Cardinal Gibbons clinched the Carolina 3A title with a 28-21 win over Orange; Carrboro jumped out to a 25-7 first-quarter lead at Granville Central and never trailed in the undefeated Jaguars 59-24, Carolina 2A victory; South Granville beat Cedar Ridge 48-8 in Carolina 2A action; and Northwood rolled past Union Pines 44-10 in a non-conference game.
At Henderson, Chapel Hill (8-2, 3-1 Carolina 3A) scored on two runs from Darius Allen and a pass from T.J. Johnson to Gregory Powell.
At Stem, Trai Sharp ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns on just 17 carries to lead Carrboro (10-0, 4-0 Carolina 2A) against the Panthers. Alex McVeigh completed 8-of-13 passes for 181 yards and four touchdowns.
At Raleigh, a scrambling Shawn Stankavage found Trevor Zaruba in the back of the end zone to give the Crusaders the go-ahead score in their 28-21 win.
See Wednesdays Chapel Hill News for more on these games.
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