Hillside loses heartbreaker to 4th quarter comeback
After most of Hillside’s heartbroken players walked slowly off the field after a stinging 16-15 loss to Knightdale in the second round of the state 4-A playoffs, wide receiver Trevion Thompson and Coach Antonio King threw their arms around each other in a long embrace.
And with good reason, for the defeat ends Thompson’s stellar career, as well as the Hornets’ promising season.
Hillside (9-3) controlled the game from the start, but missed opportunities and too many mistakes sent the Hornets home.
“We could’ve capitalized on them, but we missed opportunities,” Thompson said. “That’s what really hurt us. The opportunities we missed — to get first downs, to hit big plays to get ahead of the chains and get good field position with the possibility to score — we didn’t do that.”
The hug with King was a touching moment for Thompson.
“It hurts,” Thompson said of the loss. “It’s the last go-round.”
Knightdale (11-1) could only muster 144 total yards and trailed until late in the game, when quarterback Marquavious Johnson scrambled 15 yards for the winning touchdown with 26 seconds remaining. Hillside was its own worst enemy, as the Hornets were flagged 13 times for 149 yards of penalties — including a crucial personal-foul penalty on the Knights’ winning drive.
“You can’t really explain it,” King said of all the penalties. “I didn’t even see the last personal foul penalty. I really don’t know what happened. I’m celebrating that we got a stop, and I’m thinking their coach called a timeout. But I see the referees huddle, and there’s a penalty on us.”
Knightdale took over after Ian Burris missed a 25-yard field goal with 5:02 left, converting a fourth down when East Carolina commit Johnson scrambled 12 yards. Facing second-and-10 from the Hillside 27, Johnson was stacked up for a 6-yard loss.
But a Hornet player was ruled to have come in late, moving the ball to the Hillside 18. After Johnson got the first down on a 3-yard run, Keith Beasly nearly ended the game with an interception in the end zone. But Johnson followed with his second TD run of the game.
Hillside dominated the game against one of the top teams in the state, as its big-play performers stepped up, with Thompson getting a 25-yard touchdown catch for the first score and safety Kalen McCain, an N.C. State commit, getting a nifty interception on the sideline to end a Knight threat in the first quarter.
But there were chances for more. One Hornet drive ended after a fumbled snap, and quarterback Nas Forté-Ferguson overthrew a wide open Ray Green on what would have been a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Knightdale couldn’t do much against Hillside’s speedy, swarming defense, gaining only 52 yards in the first half.
“We were dialed in, we had a great scheme,” King said. “But early in the first half, we didn’t get the scores that we needed. I really feel we should’ve gone up 21-0 at the half. It would’ve been a different ballgame.
“Then we had a couple mistakes on closing drives. We’re really supposed to finish this team off, but we didn’t. We let them stay around, we let them get life and it came back and bit us at the end.”
The Hornets went up 15-3 after Donté Thomas-Williams’ 1-yard run and two-point conversion run with 4:19 left in the third, and Hillside forced a quick three-and-out. But the Hornets had to punt, and Knightdale, helped by two pass interference penalties, scored on Johnson’s 8-yard run with 11:43 left in the game.
The teams traded missed field goals, and after Johnson’s final score, Forté-Ferguson and Thompson couldn’t connect on two ling passes.
King, though not happy about the mistakes, tried to pump up his team after the game.
“Just don’t hang your head,” King said to his team. “We played a good game, and we’re going to have more victories around our part. We needed to finish. We didn’t finish tonight. That’s a life lesson. My guys need to understand, when you start something and you’ve got it right there, finish, so we don’t have to have this feeling anymore.”
NOTES — While their high school careers are over, Thomas-Williams and Thompson — both four-star recruits attracting national Top 25 recruiting attention — are off on official college visits today, Thomas-Williams to Florida State and Thompson to Ohio State.
KNIGHTDALE 16, HILLSIDE 15
Hillside 7 0 8 0 — 15
Knightdale 0 3 0 13 — 16
H — Trevion Thompson 25 pass from Nas Forté-Feguson (Ian Burris kick), 8:28
K — Taylor Betts 23 field goal, 4:07.
H — Donté Thomas-Williams 1 run (Thomas-Williams run), 4:19
K — Marquavious Johnson 8 run (Taylor Betts kick), 11:43
K — Johnson 15 run (pass failed), 0:26.
RUSHING — Hillside, Thomas-Williams 30-128, Raquaz Brannon 14-30; Forte-Ferguson 5-(minus-18). Knightdale, Marquavious Johnson 17-57, Nate Harvey 15-22, KaMel Bloodworth 3-15, Marcell Johnson 3-5.
PASSING — Hillside, Nas Forté-Ferguson 12-21-2 198. Knightdale, Marquavious Johnson 4-12-1 45.
RECEIVING — Hillside, Thompson 4-89, Ray Green 1-38, Miles Kelly 2-31, Thomas-Williams 2-26, Donte Edwards 1-8, Malik Evans 1-6. Knightdale, Lamont Chaney 4-45.
Records — Hillside 9-3, Knightdale 11-1.