CHAPEL HILL — Despite arriving at Wildcat Stadium with an 0-3 record Friday night, Chapel Hill rebounded for its first victory of the season with a decisive 26-7 victory at East Chapel Hill.
It was Chapel Hill’s 10th straight win in the series, which dates back to 1996. Bill Hodgin, who coached football at CHHS before becoming the first athletics director at East Chapel Hill, was on hand to present the winners with the Chapel Hill News’ Bill Hodgin Cup, awarded annually to the winners of this rivalry game.
Unusually, the Wildcats (1-4) entered the battle for the Hodgin Cup with a better record than their crosstown rivals after defeating the Cedar Ridge Red Wolves last week.
But a relentless effort from Chapel Hill’s defensive line, which limited Wildcat quarterback Connor Stough to five completions, wore down a shallow East Chapel Hill offensive line working without three starters from the previous week.
“That’s where our heart and soul is,” Chapel Hill coach Isaac Marsh said. “When our defensive line gets going, everyone else will piggyback and pick up off of them.”
Still, the Wildcats were able to strike on their first drive of the game. Stough gave his team a 7-0 lead early on with a 49-yard bomb to Arkavious Parks for a touchdown.
That was the last East Chapel Hill would see of the end zone. Coach John Harmon felt he and the coaching staff could be held responsible for the offense’s struggles.
“The first series, we’re full speed, and then we started to wear down a bit,” Harmon said. “But obviously we didn’t prepare well enough as an offense to get ready for this team. And that’s more on me for not putting our receivers and running backs in a position to be successful.”
Darius Allen, meanwhile, Chapel Hill’s talented running back, became well acquainted with the other side of the pylons. The senior scored all four of the Tigers’ touchdowns and racked up 148 rushing yards, running probably twice that amount switching sidelines and making tacklers miss.
It was Allen who responded at the end of the first quarter with a 3-yard touchdown rush up the middle. The two-point conversion attempt was stopped in the backfield.
Thereafter, East Chapel Hill had no answer. The Chapel Hill defense caused a total of seven three-and-outs and came away with three turnovers.
Allen struck again in the second quarter with a 48-yard touchdown run, breaking through a gap and then using his speed to pull away from the Wildcat secondary.
Two drives later, with under 40 seconds left in the half, the senior broke a pair of open-field tackles and bolted 14 yards to the the 1-yard line. He converted on the next play to give his team a 19-7 lead at halftime.
Even though the Wildcats held Chapel Hill to a single touchdown by Allen in the final two quarters, its offense looked even flimsier than it had in the first half. Stough threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, including a pass on the final play of the game that was picked off in the end zone.
“The question always is “What are you going to do now? Get better,” Marsh said. “Even though we started the season off on a downward note, each week we have kept that same philosophy. These guys have stuck with us, and tonight was a full-team effort.”