Southern vs. Hillside, 7:30 tonight, NCCU's O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium
Hillside basically has been the big brother in its rivalry with Southern.
The Hornets have been the guys winning a little bit more and a little bit bigger, like that 4-A state championship in 2010.
Then Southern won the 3-AA championship last season, and it was like everybody all of a sudden remembered the Spartans.
This evening’s meeting between those teams renews the rivalry that Hillside won 29-24 a year ago at Durham County Memorial Stadium. Tonight’s venue is N.C. Central University’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium (7:30 p.m., 99.9 FM).
Hillside Booster Club president Greg Bethea said 10,000 tickets were printed for the game. Capacity at NCCU’s stadium is 10,000 fannies, so O’Kelly-Riddick should be able to hold the crowd.
But there’s no way that place will contain the emotion. These are two fan bases that don’t particularly care from one another.
It’s all love, though, a civil rivalry wherein exists mutual respect.
Hillside coach Antonio King said Southern has a guy under center in senior Kendall Hinton who’s like a sculptor out there on the field when he’s carving up defenses.
“They’re led by the best quarterback in the state,” King said.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe wanted Hinton, but the young man was wearing Wake Forest shorts during practice earlier this week at Southern. Hinton has committed to become a Demon Deacon.
Southern hosted and waxed Capitol Christian Academy 41-0 last week. King was there, and he and everybody else at Southern’s place saw that Capitol Christian wasn’t working with very much. They had maybe a handful of players on the sideline available to relieve teammates who weren’t hitting on much on the field.
“They were a good team. They just have depth issues,” Southern coach Darius Robinson said about Capitol Christian. “I feel like that team could have matched up with some of the other teams in Durham that are in the PAC-6.”
Southern used to be in the 4-A PAC-6 before reclassification bumped the Spartans to the 3-A level. That was based on a dip in the number of students at Southern, and it theoretically means Robinson and his coaches have a smaller pool from which to pull talent.
Last season, Southern won the inaugural 3-A Big Eight Conference title and are favored not only to win its league again but also repeat as state champs.
Doing that will require a season-long commitment to playing hungry and humble football, even against those boys from Hillside, Robinson said.
“I always teach our kids to play in between the whistles. That’s when you have a swag,” Robinson said. “Wins take care of everything.”
And mistakes can cost a team everything. Southern must limit its flubs against a Hillside team that will be eager to get into the end zone after being shutout 12-0 by New Bern in Week 1, Robinson said.
Mistakes here and there kept Hillside off the scoreboard, said King, confident that the Hornets will put up some points against Southern. Hillside quarterback Nas Forté-Ferguson barely missed on some throws that could have led to scores, King said.
Hillside ended up using some younger guys on the offensive line. New Bern’s coach picked up on that and began bearing down toward that end, limiting Hillside’s ability to control the line of scrimmage.
When Southern has the ball, Hillside has do more than stop Hinton, as good as he is, King said.
“I won’t say it’s all that simple, because Kendall is going to make his plays,” King said. “We’ve got to eliminate the big play.”
Southern’s William Cameron came out of the backfield for the Spartans last year, but offensive coordinator Tony Creecy now has him split out at wide receiver.
“We needed somebody to take the top off the secondary,” Robinson said.
Cameron runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, Robinson explained.
One of the things that makes Robinson furrow his brow is Hillside’s run defense.
“It’s going to be very hard to get on the edge,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be very hard to run up the middle, so it’s going to be a cat-and-mouse game, pretty much, to get them to make a mistake and we capitalize on it.”
Cameron likely will get some touches at running back, too, Robinson said.
Southern’s ability to generate points gets a lot of attention. But the Spartans can play defense, too. Robinson said Southern proved that in the 2013 state-championship game when Shelby’s Crest High School had 200-plus rushing yards in the first half but just 65 yards of total offense in the second half.
“We’re very capable as a defense to shut any team in the state of North Carolina down,” Robinson said.
Hillside will have something to say about that.