HILLSIDE IN OT!
Senior newcomer Ian Burris Jr. kicked a game-winning 30-yard field goal in overtime as Hillside handed New Bern its first home loss since 2011, 27-24.
For the first time in three consecutive season openers Hillside beat the Bears. The winner of the Hillside-New Bern game twice in the past three seasons has gone on to win the state 4-A championship.
Hillside won it all in 2010 after beating New Bern in the East finals. New Bern won the state championship after beating Hillside in here in the 2012 opener and lost in the state semifinals after beating Hillside in Durham in 2011.
Senior receiving star Trevion Thompson caught two touchdown passes from first-time Hillside starting quarterback Nas Forte-Ferguson and New Bern quarterback Michael Hughes countered with a touchdown and two touchdown passes to Theron Noble.
Hillside avenged last year’s 40-20 loss at New Bern, and its 27-19 defeat to the Bears in 2011. The mini-rivalry began in 2010 when Hillside knocked off New Bern, 12-7, in the 4A Eastern Regional Finals.
“We had a chip on our shoulder from the past couple years,” Thompson said. “In the offseason, we worked hard. Our seniors want to go out with a bang, so we push each other everyday in practice.”
“Winning the first game was one of many goals (my players) set,” Hillside coach Antonio King said. “The team that’s won this game has done pretty well the last three years.”
New Bern kicker Josh Htoo knotted the game at 24-24 as time expired in regulation.
Hughes scored on a four-yard run to give New Bern a 21-17 advantage with five minutes left in regulation. Three minutes later, Thompson scampered down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown reception with two minutes to go.
On New Bern’s final offensive possession of regulation, Hughes dashed 66 yards down to Hillside’s 5.
The Bears had to settle for a field goal.
“We thought we had it, but just ran out of gas,” said Hughes. “It went their way today, but we will bounce back. We will just learn from our mistakes, polish ourselves and be ready to come out next week.”
Hillside struck first with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Thompson, following a missed 20-yard field goal by Htoo.
The Bears drove to the Hornets’ 3-yard line after Hughes completed a 32-yard pass to Diondre Poole.
Three plays later, New Bern’s offense was held to a field goal attempt. Htoo booted his kick right, and on the next Hillside play, Hornets’ quarterback Nas Forte-Ferguson launched a bomb into the arms of Thompson.
New Bern, which recovered two fumbles in the first half, capitalized on a Hillside miscue. Sam Thomas falling on a fumble.
Hughes later tossed his first of two touchdown passes to Theron Noble.
Donte Thomas-Williams put the Hornets on top at halftime when he punched the ball in the end zone on a 1-yard run with a little more than two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Noble caught a pair of 27-yard touchdown passes for New Bern. Thompson caught six passes for 163 yards and Thomas-Williams ran for 106 yards for the Hornets.
“This win feels amazing,” Williams said. “We are two hard teams fighting against each other. Everybody played their hearts out. It was the little things that won this game.”
NOTES — Hillside hasn’t had an effective placekicker the last several seasons. In preseason camp, King called Burris his new “weapon” and the transfer from Riverside who’d never played high school football before, came through in the clutch. “My secret weapon kicked two good field goals,” King said. “Their quarterback (Hughes) gave us a tough time. We needed it.”