Hillside, Orange, Southern eye state football title runs
Reaching the final 16 of the state playoffs is sweet, but all three area football playoff survivors are looking for more, much more, beginning with their second round games tonight.
Hillside coach Antonio King probably summed it up best when looking at the potential path to a title — “They didn’t give us no Yellow Brick Road, I can tell you that,” King said after practice Thursday.
The road isn’t paved with yellow bricks and there are no Munchkins lining up against Orange and Hillside on the road tonight at Clayton Cleveland (3-AA) and Knightdale (4-A), respectively, or at Southern (3-AA) where the Spartans host Cardinal Gibbons.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. for each of the three area playoff games.
Here’s what each matchup tonight looks like, with class seedings and records included.
No. 10 Cardinal Gibbons (9-3) at No. 2 Southern (10-2) — Familiarity breeds anything BUT contempt when it comes to Southern and it’s Big Eight 3-A Conference foe.
The Big Eight champion Spartans beat third-place Cardinal Gibbons on Gibbons’ home turf in October when the teams were tied atop the Big Eight. The final score was 45-28 and the outcome was never in real doubt. Gibbons trailed 17-7 after one quarter, 31-14 at the half, and never got closer than 10 in the second half.
But the Crusaders made a solid impression on Southern coach Adrian Jones, particularly quarterback Shawn Stankavage.
Stankavage threw for 332 yards (21 of 40) and one touchdown and ran for 91 yards on 19 carries and another score in the loss.
“They’ve got a great quarterback,” Jones said. “Stankavage is a smart kid, a great leader. We’ve gotta make sure we do a better job of containing him.”
Jones said the key tonight will not be the game plan, but rather execution.
“We’re a very confident bunch,” Jones said. “We’ve got the potential to win a state championship, but that’s not enough. To do it, we’ve got to play week-in, week-out. At this point ... you can’t afford an off night.”
The Spartans will be playing their second playoff game without starting defensive end Isiah Ross who was lost in the regular-season finale to a knee injury that required surgery.
The Spartans have had a remarkable offensive season with their big three of major college recruits — QB Kendall Hinton, WR/PR Maurice Trowell and RB/KR William Cameron — leading the way.
Hinton, a junior, has completed 159 of 236 pass attempts for 2,978 yards and 29 touchdowns — and most impressively only two interceptions — with a completion rate of 67.4 percent. Duke has offered him a scholarship and Tennessee and others appear likely to follow.
He also leads the team in rushing with 64 carries for 898 and 10 touchdowns.
He’s not the only double-digit touchdown machine on the roster. Trowell has 15, RB/SB Jordan Brown 12 and Cameron and Derrick Mason 11 apiece. Trowell has caught 61 passes for 1,192 yards (19.54 per catch) and 14 scores and Mason 58 for 1,027 (17.71 per catch) and 11 scores. Brown has 16 catches for 229 (14.31 per catch).
On special teams, return men Cameron, who committed to West Virginia this week, and Trowell, an N.C. State commit, are threats to go all the way every time they handle the ball.
NOTES — Southern is ranked 53rd in the state overall and 15th in Class 3-A by MaxPreps.com, while Gibbons is No. 86 and No. 27 in 3-A ... Southern has averaged 271 passing yards and 235 rushing yards per game while scoring 597 points and allowing 295. That’s 49.75 points a game on offense and 24.58 points a game allowed ... Gibbons has outscored its opponents 462 to 329 (38.5-27.4 per game).
No. 5 Hillside (9-2) at No. 4 Knightdale (10-1) — Hillside coach Antonio King said two things grabbed his full attention when looking at Knightdale’s roster. “They’ve got (41) guys on their roster and about (27) of ’em are seniors,” King said. “They’ve grown up together.” He also gave a nod to the team’s speed, saying many of the school’s state champion track athletes will be on the field tonight.
What Knightdale doesn’t have is a great passing game. Quarterback Quay Johnson has run for 996 yards and thrown for only 735. Running back Nate Harvey has run for 1,204 yards and Lamont Chaney is the top receiver with 24 catches for 367 yards according to coach Robert Senseney.
What Hillside has to do is concentrate on its own strengths, which are many.
Running back Donté Thomas-Williams has run for 1,670 yards, receiver Trevion Thompson has 53 catches for 898 yards and quarterback Nas Forté-Ferguson has thrown for 1,701 yards and 19 touchdowns against only two interceptions.
“We’re still trying to develop our passing game to my liking,” former college quarterback King said. “But we’ve got enough of a passing game to make people nervous. The thing I really like is we’ve been smart throwing it — 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions. You’ve gotta like that.”
King is most concerned about Knightdale’s athleticism.
“They’ll ‘athlete’ you to death,” he said.
NOTES — Thomas-Williams (6-2, 215) and Thompson (6-3, 185) are both 4-star college prospects who’ll be headed off on recruiting visits Saturday to Florida State and Ohio State, respectively. ... Knightdale has won eight straight games and outscored its opponents 380-196 on the year. They’re ranked No. 19 in N.C. and 12th in 4-A. ... Hillside is ranked 40th overall and 27th in 4-A and has won seven straight. ... The Hornets hold a 396-168 scoring edge on the year. ... King said that outside of two players who’ve been out all year, the Hornets are “100 percent healthy.” ... Knightdale two-way star Marquavious Johnson has committed to East Carolina. ... Thompson has been chosen to play in the Jan. 5 Semper Fidelis All-America Bowl in Carson, Calif., and King will be along as the East receivers coach for the game.
No. 6 Orange (11-1) at No. 3 Clayton Cleveland (9-3) — Orange High School was undefeated and had one of the state’s top defenses before giving up 69 points over two games and going 1-1 against Southern and Cardinal Gibbons to close the regular season.
Orange had only given up 71 points in its first nine games.
Coach Pat Moser said the problem wasn’t an Orange hiccup, but rather the offenses it faced. “It was all about the quality of the offense,” Moser said. “Stankavage of Gibbons is as good a quarterback as you’ll see anywhere — in this state or in the country. Deadly accurate. And (Southern’s) Hinton is unbelievable, too.”
Tonight’s matchup isn’t nearly as tough as those two, but Cleveland has its pluses, including mammoth defensive lineman Sterling Johnson, a junior with a scholarship offer from Clemson who’s listed as 6-5, 245, but Moser thinks is closer to 6-6, 290.
Cleveland is likely to have problems running against Orange, and if it does, that’s good news for the Panthers. Cleveland passes for 115 yards a game and rushes for 281 and has outscored its opponents 427-33 and won six straight.
Orange has balanced attack featuring 2,000-yard passer Garrett Cloer and double-wing backs Patrick Pettiford (1,000-plus yards in 10 games) and Tay Jones (1,500-plus yards in 12 games). Throw in changeup runs by 250-pound fullback Mike Bolden and Cleveland could be in for a long night.
But Moser is taking nothing for granted. “Cleveland has a history of winning big games and coming back on people,” Moser said Thursday. “They’ve got good kids, very good coachingt and a great fan base.”
NOTES — Orange will be without starting right guard Zach Wagoner (knee) and fullback Marquiese Morrow (knee) for the second straight week. ... If Orange wins, it will meet the Gibbons-Southern winner next week, at home if it’s Gibbons, on the road if it’s Southern. ... Orange has outscored the opposition 494-143 this season and is ranked 26th overall in N.C., No. 7 in 3-A.