Hillside overcomes slow start, beats Clayton
Clayton out a scare into Hillside in the first round of the state 4-A playoffs, but the Hornets made the big plays in the second half to survive 36-30 on Friday night.
Donte Thomas-Williams ran for 254 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Trevion Thompson caught two touchdown passes, and defensive back Kalen McCain had two interceptions, including one in the end zone with 39 seconds remaining to seal the win for Hillside (9-2).
The Hornets will face Knightdale, a 38-15 winner over Southern Alamance Friday night, in the second round next Friday.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times early," Hillside coach Antonio King said. "Three turnovers: that's what gave them their points. And not seeing a Wing (offense) and only having a week to prepare for it gave us a couple fits, but we stayed strong."
Clayton (7-5) led 23-21 late in the third quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Nick Christensen. But Thomas-Williams darted 54 yards for one score and 60 for another as the Hornets took command, 36-23.
After a Jace Brown touchdown run, Clayton had a chance to take the lead after the second of two Thomas-Williams fumbles. Quarteback Sam May converted one fourth-down play on a tipped pass to Anton Watson, but his second fourth-down pass was intercepted by McCain.
"They put up a good fight, and we were up to the challenge," McCain said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy and it was going to be a dogfight."
Clayton's ground attack accumulated 288 yards, but most of those were in the first half.
"At the end of the day, it's win and go on," King said. "Survive and advance. We'll get ready for the next opponent, and we won't have to worry about fixing anything. Just get ready for the next opponent."
Clayton stunned the Hillside crowd as Rodney Rowe scored on the Comets' first play, a 41-yard scamper that followed a short Hornet punt.
The Comets then turned a Hillside fumble into another score, this one an 11-yard pass from Sam May to Eric Hoy, and with 3:12 left in the first quarter, the favored Hornets were down 13-0.
"We were trying to keep each other's spirits up and know that we were going to win," McCain said. "We had to keep playing hard until the game was over."
Hillside righted itself with an 80-yard drive capped by a Raquaz Brannon 5-yard run to cut the lead to 13-7.
After another Hornet fumble, Clayton went up 20-7 as May scored from 1 yard out on fourth down.
Thompson cut the lead to 20-14 as he caught a short pass from Nas Forte-Ferguson, broke two tackles and scored from 30 yards out.
"Just a great high school football game," Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski said. "For the first round of the playoffs, I don't think you could ask for much more than that."
HILLSIDE 36, CLAYTON 30
Clayton 13 7 3 7 — 30
Hillside 7 7 7 15 — 36
C — Rodney Rowe 4 run (pass failed), 9:49
C — Erik Hoy 23 pass from Sam May (Nick Christensen kick), 3:12
H — Raquaz Brannon 5 run (Ian Burris kick), :57
C — May 1 run (Christensen kick), 6:12
H — Trevion Thompson 30 pass from Nas Forte-Ferguson (Burris kick), 5:05
H — Thompson 18 pass from Forte-Ferguson (Burris kick), 7:46
C — FG Christensen 36, 1:15
H — Donté Thomas-Williams 54 run (Burris kick), 11:09
H — Thomas-Williams 60 run (Burris kick),9:04
C — Jace Brown 3 run (Christensen kick), 6:03
RUSHING — Clayton, Row 18-132, Brown 21-93, Hoy 10-35, Blake Joyner 2-14, Evan Bradshaw 2-9, May 5-5. Hillside, Thomas-Williams 23-254, Brannon 10-95, Marcus Krah 1-10, Forte-Ferguson 3-(minus-14).
PASSING — Clayton, May 5-12-2 115. Hillside, Forté-Ferguson 7-11-0 77
RECEIVING — Clayton, Hoy 4-109, Brandon Harrell 1-6. Hillside, Thompson 4-59, Donte Edwards 1-14, Miles Kelly 2-4.
Records — Clayton 7-5, Hillside 9-2.